2006 Volume 126 Issue 11 Pages 1087-1115
Cell proliferation is regulated through a transition between the G0 phase and cell cycle. We isolated a mammalian temperature-sensitive mutant cell line defective in the function from the G0 phase to cell cycle. Senescent human somatic cells fail to enter into the cell cycle from the G0 phase with stimulation by any growth factor. Telomere shortening was found to be a cause of cellular senescence, and reexpression of telomerase immortalized human somatic cells. Immortalized human somatic cells showed normal phenotypes and were useful not only for basic research but also for clinical and applied fields. The importance of p53 and p21 activation/induction i now well accepted in the signal transduction process from telomere shortening to growth arrest, but the precise mechanism is largely unknown as yet. We found that the MAP kinase cascade and histone acetylase have an important role in the signaling process to express p21. Tumor tissues and cells were found to have strong telomerase activity, while most normal somatic human tissues showed very weak or no activity. Telomerase activity was shown to be a good marker for early tumor diagnosis because significant telomerase activity was detected in very early tumors or even in some precancerous tissues compared with adjacent normal tissues. Telomere/telomerase is a candidate target for cancer chemotherapeutics, and an agent that abrogated telomere functions was found to kill tumor cells effectively by inducing apoptosis whereas it showed no effect on the viability of normal cells.