Telomerase activity in a specific cell subset co-expressing integrinbeta1/EGFR but not p75NGFR/bcl2/integrin beta4 in normal human epithelial cells

Oncogene. 1998 Jul 16;17(2):187-97. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1201916.


Telomerase activity is correlated with the immortality of various cultured cells and cancer cells. The activity, however, is also demonstrated in various normal regenerating cells which normally have a finite life span in vivo and in vitro, though its biological implication remains unclear. Using cultured normal human epithelial cells, we show that telomerase activity is associated with epithelial cell subsets which actively proliferate in vitro. Unlike in most cancer cell lines, telomerase activity was evidently up-regulated when the cells entered into S phase in primary human epithelial cells. To characterize the cells which have telomerase activity, the primary human epithelial cell population of uterine cervix was dissociated into several distinctive cellular subsets by means of immunocytochemical cell fractionation. Telomerase activity was found to be closely associated with the subset which expressed predominantly integrin beta1 and epidermal growth factor receptor. We further identified the telomerase-negative subpopulation which contained a small subset that strongly coexpresses p75NGFR low affinity nerve growth factor receptor, integrin beta4 and bcl-2 protein. The location of the p75NGFR-expressing cells contrasts to that of the Ki-67 positive cells in vivo and is distinctive of telomerase positive cycling cells, indicating that these cells remain at the G0 phase. The present study supports the notion that telomerase activity is linked to cell cycle regulation, implying that telomerase is activated upon cell proliferation in regenerating normal human epithelial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Separation
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology*
  • ErbB Receptors / biosynthesis*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Integrin beta1 / biosynthesis*
  • Integrin beta4
  • Integrins / biosynthesis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / biosynthesis
  • Telomerase / analysis*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Integrin beta1
  • Integrin beta4
  • Integrins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Telomerase