In this paper we have examined the growth and differentiation of the embryonal carcinoma cell line, F9, in the defined medium EM-3 at low density. We show that the growth of F9 and their differentiated cells (F9-diff) in EM-3 is strongly density dependent. At low cell densities the growth of both cell types is severely limited and most of the cells do not survive. Although this poses a problem for working with F9 and F9-diff in EM-3, it provides a convenient assay for identifying molecules that support their growth at low density. Using this assay, we have determined that laminin, a newly isolated glycoprotein of basement membranes, significantly improves the growth and short-term survival of both F9 and F9-diff. However, addition of laminin to EM-3 is insufficient to promote the clonal growth of these cell types. Our findings also indicate that laminin promotes the attachment of F9 and F9-diff in defined media. On the basis of our results, we propose an attachment function for laminin during the early stages of mammalian development.
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