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Oncogene. 1998 Dec 31;17(26):3417-26.

A telomere-independent senescence mechanism is the sole barrier to Syrian hamster cell immortalization.

Author information

1
Department of Biology and Biochemistry, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK.

Abstract

Reactivation of telomerase and stabilization of telomeres occur simultaneously during human cell immortalization in vitro and the vast majority of human cancers possess high levels of telomerase activity. Telomerase repression in human somatic cells may therefore have evolved as a powerful resistance mechanism against immortalization, clonal evolution and malignant progression. The comparative ease with which rodent cells immortalize in vitro suggests that they have less stringent controls over replicative senescence than human cells. Here, we report that Syrian hamster dermal fibroblasts possess substantial levels of telomerase activity throughout their culture life-span, even after growth arrest in senescence. In our studies, telomerase was also detected in uncultured newborn hamster skin, in several adult tissues, and in cultured fibroblasts induced to enter the post-mitotic state irreversibly by serum withdrawal. Transfection of near-senescent dermal fibroblasts with a selectable plasmid vector expressing the SV40 T-antigen gene resulted in high-frequency single-step immortalization without the crisis typically observed during the immortalization of human cells. Collectively, these data provide an explanation for the increased susceptibility of rodent cells to immortalization (and malignant transformation) compared with their human equivalents, and provide evidence for a novel, growth factor-sensitive, mammalian senescence mechanism unrelated to telomere maintenance.

PMID:
10030665
DOI:
10.1038/sj.onc.1202261
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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