Telomeres are essential for stable chromosome maintenance. The simple G-rich sequence motif d(TTAGGG)n is all that is required in cis for telomere function in mammalian cells, as in other eukaryotes. Using this fact, telomeres have been used to specifically fragment mammalian chromosomes to dissect their structure and function. Telomere length maintenance is altered in cancer cells. Trans-acting factors, such as telomerase and telomere-binding proteins, may determine telomere function in both normal and cancer cells. Current experiments are aimed at understanding the role of telomerase and telomere-binding proteins in cellular senescence and immortalization.