a549 cell culture
Copyright picture from Altogen.com. Reproduced with permission from Altogen Biosystems.

A549 Cell Line Origin

The A549 cell line was first developed in 1972 by D.J. Giard, et al., through the removal and culturing of cancerous lung tissue in the explanted tumor of 58-year-old Caucasian male.  The cells produced were adenocarcinomic alveolar basal epithelial cells with a modal chromosome number of 66.  This type of cell in a normal lung is squamous and performs the task of diffusing water, electrolytes and other substances across the surface of the alveoli.

A549 Cytogenetic Information

The cell line is hypotriploid with a modal chromosome number of 66, which occurs in 24% of cells. Modal numbers of 64 and 67 is relatively common with higher ploidies occurring at an infrequent rate (0.4%).

Morphology and Characteristics of A549 Cells

A549 cells have been well characterized over the years and are a valuable tool to researchers that routinely use them as in vitro and in vivo models.  These cells are squamous in nature and are responsible for the diffusion of substances such as water and electrolytes across the alveoli of lungs.  These cells are human alveolar basal epithelial cells and grow adherently as a monolayer in vitro.

A549 cells are positive for keratin, as is evidenced by immunoperoxidase staining.  The cells are able to synthesize lecithin and contain a high percentage of desaturated fatty acids, which are utilized by the cytidine-diphosphocholine pathway and important for the maintenance of membrane phospholipids in cells.

A549 Cell Line Derived Xenograft Mouse Model

The A549 non-small cell lung cancer (nsclc) cell line is cultured and then inoculated in mice to create the A549 CDX mouse model (cell line derived xenograft).  The A549 CDX model is one of the most highly utilized xenograft lung cancer models used by researchers for studying SoC (standard of care) and novel therapeutics (i.e. gefitinib, erlotinib, paclitaxel. lapatinib) due to overexpression of HER-2 and EGFR receptors.  Typical end of study results are comprised of tumor volume measurements, body weight tracking or animal survival.

The following options are typically available for an A549 CDX xenograft model:

  • Dosing frequency and duration of dose administration
  • A549 Tumor Growth Delay
  • A549 Tumor Growth Inhibition
  • Dosing routes:
    • Intravenous
    • Intratracheal
    • continuous infusion
    • intraperitoneal
    • intratumoral
    • oral gavage
    • topical
    • intramuscular
    • subcutaneous
    • intranasal
    • cutting-edge micro-injection techniques and pump-controlled IV injection
  • A549 tumor immunohistochemistry
  • Cell engraftment sites
    • orthotopic transplantation
    • tail vein injection
    • left ventricular injection for metastasis studies
    • injection into mammary fat pad
    • intraperitoneal injection
  • Blood chemistry analysis
  • Toxicity and survival (optional: performing a broad health observation program)
  • Gross necropsies and histopathology
  • Imaging studies: Fluorescence-based whole body imaging, MRI
  • Positive control group employing cyclophosphamide, at a dosage of 50 mg/kg administered by intramuscular injection to the control group daily for the study duration
  • Lipid distribution and metabolic assays


  • Chemokine production by A549 cells in response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis: In this study, A549 cells were infected with several strains of M. tuberculosis and then their chemokine production was measured. In addition, the intracellular growth of the A549 cells was measured and compared with the chemokine production. LINK: http://iai.asm.org/content/66/3/1121.long
  • Observation of differentiation in A549 cells: Monolayer cultures of A549 cells were maintained for up to three weeks, and examined using an immunoperoxidase technique. This technique used antibodies to detect surface-associated glycoproteins, which bound differently to certain A549 cells, indicating localization of the glycoproteins. LINK: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6092046