Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) activity can be deduced from the presence of telomere length maintenance in the absence of telomerase activity. More convenient assays for ALT utilize phenotypic markers of ALT activity, but only a few of these assays are potentially definitive. Here we assess each of the current ALT assays and their implications for understanding the ALT mechanism. We also review the clinical situations where availability of an ALT activity assay would be advantageous. The prevalence of ALT ranges from 25% to 60% in sarcomas and 5% to 15% in carcinomas. Patients with many of these types of ALT[+] tumors have a poor prognosis.
Copyright 2010 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.