Phorbol myristic acetate (PMA) is a tumor-promoting agent that has been shown to induce differentiation of human leukemia cells and of normal lymphoid cells. We have investigated the ability of PMA to induce inhibition of cell growth of the human KM-3 pre-B leukemic cell line by multiparametric analysis. Our results show that PMA treatment induces cell differentiation with the disappearance of terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase and a decrease of cell growth, as evaluated by [3H]thymidine uptake. Flow cytometric analysis of BrdU incorporation shows that PMA is able to induce a modification of the cell cycle with a sharp decrease of the percentage of S-phase cells, which is more evident after 24 h of treatment. Comparison between the cell growth kinetics and TdT synthesis and activity shows that differentiated cells are still able to proliferate to a certain extent and that the TdT disappearance and the initial decrease of cell proliferation are two independent effects of PMA.
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