Telomerase activity can be detected in most human cancers and immortal cell lines. In contrast, the lack of telomerase activity in normal diploid fibroblasts has been correlated with progressive reduction of telomere lengths to critically short sizes followed by the cessation of cell division and the onset of senescence. Several investigators have provided evidence for the localization of a telomerase suppressor gene on chromosome 3. The aim of our study was to determine whether other chromosomes are involved in telomerase repression. Beside human chromosome 3 (serving as positive control), chromosomes 4, 6, and 11 were introduced into HeLa cells via microcell-mediated chromosome transfer. Telomerase activity from different hybrid cell lysates was determined at an early time point after fusion using a Telomerase ELISA kit. Strong repression of telomerase activity was only found in a subset of HeLa hybrids in which chromosome 3 or chromosome 4 had been introduced. Telomerase suppression induced by chromosome 3 or 4 transfer was paralleled by a high frequency (30% or 43%, respectively) of a senescent-like phenotype. Chromosomes 6 and 11, the functional loss of which is also implicated in cervical cancer, had no effect. These results indicate that normal human chromosomes 3 and 4 carry a gene or genes that suppress telomerase activity and induce cellular senescence in HeLa cells.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.