Cultured choriocarcinoma (Be Wo) cells exist that share many of the morphologic and bio-synthetic properties of normal human trophoblasts. In an attempt to develop a model for the immunologic relationship between a sensitized mother and fetus, we mixed Be Wo cells with mitogen-activated cytotoxic lymphocytes in vitro. Be Wo cells were resistant to the cytolytic effects of the activated lymphocytes despite 24-h exposure and intimate cell-to-cell contact as determined by microscopy. Control target cells, a line of human hepatoma cells, were readily destroyed. Cytotoxicity was measured by determining residual radioactivity of [3H]thymidine-labeled target cells after exposure to activated lymphocytes. Employing the quantitative assay, we confirmed the morphologic results and showed that Be Wo and a number of other choriocarcinoma cell lines were resistant to the cytotoxic effects of lymphocytes activated by phytohemagglutinin, pokeweed mitogen, and allogeneic cells in mixed lymphocyte cultures. Moreover, Be Wo cells were resistant to injury over a wide range of killer to target cell ratios. Significant killing of the Be Wo cells occurred only after prolonged exposure (48 and 72 h) to the activated lymphocytes.


Charles S. August, Sheila T. Cox, Michael A. Naughton


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