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What are HL-60 cells used for in cell biology studies?

The HL- 60 cell line is an immortal human cell line derived from blood lymphocytes from a patient presenting acute promyelocytic leukemia (an aggressive type of leukemia). Advantageously, the HL-60 cell line can be kept in a continuous suspension culture and was one of the first of this cell type for this to be done and characterised. The HL-60 cell line has proven useful in the study of cell formation and differentiation of normal and of course leukemic cells. This is because HL-60 cells can be differentiated through the myeloid pathway to cells such as neutrophils quite easily using DMSO, DMF and other inducers such as retinoic acid.

HL-60 is one of the large number of cell lines that could be selected as being highly useful in cancer research. HL-60 cells can be used for assessing chemotherapy drugs and, when differentiated, can be used as a model for vaccine targets. Other studies of note have used HL-60 cells to look at apoptosis (programmed cell death). In common with many other cell lines discussed in this series, how to culture the cells and having a number of strains or subcultures well characterised makes them easy to work with across the wider scientific community.


  1. Mapping cell surface adhesion by rotation tracking and adhesion footprinting, I. T. S. Li, T. Ha and Y. R. Chemla, Scientific Reports, 2017, 7, 44502,
  2. Neutrophil‐like HL‐60 cells expressing only GFP‐tagged β‐actin exhibit nearly normal motility. Garner, RM, Skariah, G, Hadjitheodorou, A, et al. Cytoskeleton. 2020; 1- 16.
  3. RSK Inhibition Induces Metaphase Arrest and Apoptosis in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Cells. Hee-Don Chae, Ritika Dutta, Bruce Tiu, Kara L. Davis, Norman J. Lacayo, Kathleen M. Sakamoto. Blood2017; 130 (Supplement 1): 2530.

Read more in the Cell Lines Series

Date: May 2020

Author: Dr Alan Mullan & Dr Aleksandra Marsh

Category: Application Note

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