Telomerase Can Inhibit the Recombination-based Pathway of Telomere Maintenance in Human Cells

Lance P. Ford, Ying Zou, Krisztina Pongracz, Sergei M. Gryaznov, Jerry W. Shay, Woodring E. Wright

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Telomere length can be maintained by telomerase or by a recombination-based pathway. Because individual telomeres in cells using the recombination-based pathway of telomere maintenance appear to periodically become extremely short, cells using this pathway to maintain telomeres may be faced with a continuous state of crisis. We expressed telomerase in a human cell line that uses the recombination-based pathway of telomere maintenance to test whether telomerase would prevent telomeres from becoming critically short and examine the effects that this might have on the recombination-based pathway of telomere maintenance. In these cells, telomerase maintains the length of the shortest telomeres. In some cases, the long heterogeneous telomeres are completely lost, and the cells now permanently contain short telomeres after only 40 population doublings. This corresponds to a telomere reduction rate of 500 base pairs/population doubling, a rate that is much faster than expected for normal telomere shortening but is consistent with the rapid telomere deletion events observed in cells using the recombination-based pathway of telomere maintenance (Murnane, J. P., Sabatier, L., Marder, B. A., and Morgan, W. F. (1994) EMBO J. 13, 4953-4962). We also observed reductions in the fraction of cells containing alternative lengthening of telomere-associated promyelocytic leukemia bodies and extrachromosomal telomere repeats; however, no alterations in the rate of sister chromatid exchange were observed. Our results demonstrate that human cells using the recombination-based pathway of telomere maintenance retain factors required for telomerase to maintain telomeres and that once the telomerase-based pathway of telomere length regulation is engaged, recombination-based elongation of telomeres can be functionally inhibited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32198-32203
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 24 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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