Impact on oxidative phosphorylation of immortalization with the telomerase gene

Neuromuscul Disord. 2007 May;17(5):368-75. doi: 10.1016/j.nmd.2007.01.019. Epub 2007 Mar 23.


Skin fibroblasts are essential tools for biochemical, genetic and physiopathological investigations of mitochondrial diseases. Their immortalization has been previously performed to overcome the limited number of divisions of these primary cells but it has never been systematically evaluated with respect to efficacy and impact on the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) characteristics of the cells. We successfully immortalized with the human telomerase gene 15 human fibroblasts populations, 4 derived from controls and 11 from patients with diverse respiratory chain defects. Immortalization induced significant but mild modification of the OXPHOS characteristics of the cells with lower rates of oxygen consumption and ATP synthesis associated with their loose coupling. However, it never significantly altered the type and severity of any genetic OXPHOS defect present prior to immortalization. Furthermore, it did not significantly modify the cells' dependence on glucose and sensitivity to galactose thus showing that immortalized cells could be screened by their nutritional requirement. Immortalized skin fibroblasts with significant OXPHOS defect provide reliable tools for the diagnosis and research of the genetic cause of mitochondrial defects. They also represent precious material to investigate the cellular responses to these defects, even though these should afterwards be verified in unmodified primary cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondrial Myopathies / pathology
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Transduction, Genetic / methods


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Telomerase
  • Glucose