Telomere maintenance mechanisms and cellular immortalization

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 1999 Feb;9(1):97-103. doi: 10.1016/s0959-437x(99)80014-8.


Immortal cell populations are able to proliferate indefinitely. Immortalization is associated with activation of processes that compensate for the telomeric shortening that accompanies cell division in normal somatic cells. In many immortal cell lines, telomere maintenance is provided by the action of the ribonucleoprotein enzyme complex, telomerase. Some immortal cell lines have undetectable or very low levels of telomerase activity and there is evidence that these cells maintain their telomeres by an alternative mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Nuclear*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism*
  • DNA Helicases*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ku Autoantigen
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Telomerase / metabolism
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism*


  • Antigens, Nuclear
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Telomerase
  • DNA Helicases
  • XRCC5 protein, human
  • Xrcc6 protein, human
  • Ku Autoantigen