Background: Telomeres that protect chromosomes at both ends are shortened with each somatic cell division through replication-dependent sequence loss at DNA termini. The chromosomes with shortened telomeres tend to become unstable, leading to cell death. Due largely to reactivation/upregulation of telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein that adds nucleotide sequences onto chromosome ends, cancer cells become immortal and neoplastically transformed.
Methods: The purpose of the present study was to study three newly established human prostate cancer cell lines and three prostate-derived fibroblastic cell cultures at different passages for telomeric DNA signal intensity, telomeric restriction fragment length (TRFL), telomerase activity, and spontaneous apoptotic index.
Results: Compared with the three fibroblastic cell cultures, the three new prostate cancer cell lines showed: 1) telomerase activity, 2) stronger telomeric signals, 3) relatively longer TRFLs, and 4) much lower apoptotic indices. On the other hand, three fibroblastic cell cultures showed: 1) no telomerase activity, 2) weaker telomeric signals, 3) shorter TRFLs (fibroblasts derived from surrounding tissue of prostate tumor showed intermediate TRFLs), and 4) comparatively higher apoptotic indices.
Conclusions: Based on these results, we conclude that telomeric DNA signal intensity, TRFL, and telomerase activity can be used to distinguish prostate cancer cells from adjacent fibroblasts.