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Blood. 2001 Aug 1;98(3):597-603.

Transfer of the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene into T lymphocytes results in extension of replicative potential.

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Division of Immunology and Allergology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


In most human somatic cells telomeres progressively shorten with each cell division eventually leading to chromosomal instability and cell senescence. The loss of telomere repeats with cell divisions may also limit the replicative life span of antigen-specific T lymphocytes. Recent studies have shown that the replicative life span of various primary human cells can be prolonged by induced expression of the telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) gene. To test whether introduction of hTERT can extend the life span of primary human T lymphocytes, naive CD8(+) T lymphocytes were transfected with retroviral vectors containing the hTERT gene. Transduced T-cell clones expressed high levels of telomerase and either maintained or elongated their telomere lengths upon culture for extended periods of time. Two of the transduced subclones retained a normal cloning efficiency for more than 170 population doublings (PDs). In contrast, T-cell clones transfected with control vectors exhibited progressive telomere length shortening and stopped proliferation at around 108 PDs. Telomerase-positive T clones had a normal 46,XY karyotype, maintained their cytotoxic properties, and showed very little staining for the apoptotic marker annexin-V. These results indicate that ectopic hTERT gene expression is capable of extending the replicative life span of primary human CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes. (Blood. 2001;98:597-603)

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