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Exp Cell Res. 2003 Aug 15;288(2):277-87.

Catalytically active human telomerase mutants with allele-specific biological properties.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-2200, USA.


Expression of the catalytic subunit of human telomerase, hTERT, extends human primary fibroblast life span. Such life span extension has generally been reported to be accompanied by net telomere lengthening, which led to the hypothesis that it is the telomere lengthening that causes the life span extension. Here we show that hTERT+C and hTERT-FlagC, mutant telomerase proteins with either 10 additional residues or a FLAG epitope added to the hTERT C-terminus, confer significant but limited life span extension to IMR90 human primary lung fibroblasts. However, as the cells continue to grow for >100 population doublings past their normal senescence point, bulk telomere length continues to erode to lengths much shorter than those seen at the senescence of control telomerase-negative cells. Expression of hTERT+C immortalized IMR90 cells transformed by three different oncogenes. Again, bulk telomeres became much shorter than those of the control cells at crisis. Additional hTERT mutants were constructed and analyzed similarly. Enzymatically active hTERT-N125A+T126A, like other previously reported conserved GQ domain mutants and C-terminally HA-tagged hTERT, failed to extend life span. Another GQ domain mutant, hTERT-E79A, was indistinguishable from wild-type hTERT in its cell growth effects, but there was no net telomere lengthening. These results uncover further hTERT allele-specific phenotypes that uncouple telomerase activity, net telomere lengthening and life span extension.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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