Human telomerase can immortalize Indian muntjac cells

Ying Zou, Xiaoming Yi, Woodring E. Wright, Jerry W. Shay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The mechanisms of replicative senescence by telomere shortening are not fully understood. The Indian muntjac has the fewest chromosomes of all mammals, greatly simplifying the analysis of each telomere over time. In this study, telomere shortening was observed throughout the life span of cultured normal muntjac cells by quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization and terminal restriction fragment analysis. Ectopic expression of the human telomerase catalytic subunit in these cells reconstituted telomerase activity, extended telomere lengths, and immortalized the cells, demonstrating that the Indian muntjac cells can serve as a telomere-based replicative senescence model for human cells. In one strain, two chromosome ends had significantly shorter telomeres than the other ends, which led to a variety of chromosome abnormalities. Near senescence, additional ends became telomere signal free, and chromosome aberrancies increased dramatically. Interstitial telomere sequences coincided with fragile sites, suggesting that these remnants of chromosome fusion events might contribute to genome instability. One SV40-immortalized cell line lacked telomerase, and its genetic instability was corrected by the ectopic expression of telomerase, confirming that too-short telomeres were the source of abnormalities. Indian muntjac cells provide an excellent system for understanding the mechanism of replicative senescence and the role of telomerase in the elongation of individual telomeres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental cell research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Indian muntjac
  • Metaphase spread
  • Quantitative FISH
  • Replicative senescence
  • Telomerase
  • Telomere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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