Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by progressive cerebellar degeneration, immunodeficiencies, genomic instability and gonadal atrophy. A-T patients are hypersensitive to ionizing radiation and have an elevated cancer risk. Cells derived from A-T patients require higher levels of serum factors, exhibit cytoskeletal defects and undergo premature senescence in culture. We show here that expression of the catalytic subunit of telomerase (hTERT) in primary A-T patient fibroblasts can rescue the premature senescence phenotype. Ectopic expression of hTERT does not rescue the radiosensitivity or the telomere fusions in A-T fibroblasts. The hTERT + AT cells also retain the characteristic defects in cell-cycle checkpoints, and show increased chromosome damage before and after ionizing radiation. Although A-T patients have an increased susceptibility to cancer, the expression of hTERT in A-T fibroblasts does not stimulate malignant transformation. These immortalized A-T cells provide a more stable cell system to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the cellular phenotypes of Ataxia-telangiectasia.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grants from NIH, Grant NS34746 to TK Pandita, Grant CA43054 to JJY Wang, Grant DK55065 to F Levine and ACS fellowship PF4462 to LD Wood. JW Shay is a senior scholar of the Ellison Medical Foundation.
- Ionizing radiation