Immortal, telomerase-negative cell lines derived from a Li-Fraumeni syndrome patient exhibit telomere length variability and chromosomal and minisatellite instabilities

Carcinogenesis. 2003 May;24(5):953-65. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgg024.


Five immortal cell lines derived from a Li-Fraumeni syndrome patient (MDAH 087) with a germline mutant p53 allele were characterized with respect to telomere length and genomic instability. The remaining wild-type p53 allele is lost in the cell lines. Telomerase activity was undetectable in all immortal cell lines. Five subclones of each cell line and five re-subclones of each of the subclones also showed undetectable telomerase activity. All five immortal cell lines exhibited variability in the mean length of terminal restriction fragments (TRFs). Subclones of each cell line, and re-subclones of the subclones also showed TRF variability, indicating that the variability is owing to clonal heterogeneity. Chromosome aberrations were observed at high frequencies in these cell lines including the subclones and re-subclones, and the principal types of aberrations were breaks, double minute chromosomes and dicentric chromosomes. In addition, minisatellite instability detected by DNA fingerprints was observed in the immortal cell lines. However, all of the cell lines were negative for microsatellite instability. As minisatellite sequences are considered recombinogenic in mammalian cells, these results suggest that recombination rates can be increased in these cell lines. Tumor-derived human cell lines, HT1080 cells and HeLa cells that also lack p53 function, exhibited little genomic instability involving chromosomal and minisatellite instabilities, indicating that chromosomal and minisatellite instabilities observed in the immortal cell lines lacking telomerase activity could not result from loss of p53 function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Chromosomes, Human
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Humans
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome / enzymology
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome / genetics*
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome / pathology*
  • Minisatellite Repeats / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Telomerase