Defining the molecular mechanisms of human cell immortalization

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1991 Apr 16;1072(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/0304-419x(91)90003-4.


Although the immortalization of human cells is a key step in oncogenic progression, the molecular mechanisms underlying this event are poorly understood. After reviewing the use of chemicals, physical agents, oncogenes and DNA tumor viruses as immortalizing agents, we consider the importance of negative regulators of cell growth (RB and p53), their inactivation, as well as genomic instability in the pathogenesis of cancer. Finally, a molecular model for human cell immortalization that integrates many of the above observations is presented along with supporting evidence.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Hybrid Cells
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / physiology
  • Simian virus 40 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / physiology


  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53