Telomere maintenance in telomerase-deficient mouse embryonic stem cells: characterization of an amplified telomeric DNA

Mol Cell Biol. 2000 Jun;20(11):4115-27. doi: 10.1128/MCB.20.11.4115-4127.2000.


Telomere dynamics, chromosomal instability, and cellular viability were studied in serial passages of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells in which the telomerase RNA (mTER) gene was deleted. These cells lack detectable telomerase activity, and their growth rate was reduced after more than 300 divisions and almost zero after 450 cell divisions. After this growth crisis, survivor cells with a rapid growth rate did emerge. Such survivors were found to maintain functional telomeres in a telomerase-independent fashion. Although telomerase-independent telomere maintenance has been reported for some immortalized mammalian cells, its molecular mechanism has not been elucidated. Characterization of the telomeric structures in one of the survivor mTER(-/-) cell lines showed amplification of the same tandem arrays of telomeric and nontelomeric sequences at most of the chromosome ends. This evidence implicates cis/trans amplification as one mechanism for the telomerase-independent maintenance of telomeres in mammalian cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Survival
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Stem Cells
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Telomerase / physiology*
  • Telomere / physiology*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • DNA
  • Telomerase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AB040048
  • GENBANK/AB040049