Replicative senescence/crisis is thought to act as a tumor suppressor mechanism. Although recent data indicate that normal human cells cannot be converted into cancer cells without telomerase, the original concept of senescence as a tumor suppressor mechanism is that senescence/crisis would act to limit the growth of telomerase-negative tumors. We show here that this concept is valid when oncogene-expressing human and bovine cells are introduced into immunodeficient mice using tissue reconstruction techniques, as opposed to conventional subcutaneous injection. Primary human and bovine adrenocortical cells were transduced with retroviruses encoding Ha-RasG12V and SV40 large T antigen and transplanted in immunodeficient mice using tissue reconstruction techniques. Transduced cells were fully malignant (invasive and metastatic) in this model. They had negligible telomerase activity both before transplantation and when recovered from tumors. When serially transplanted, tumors showed progressively slower growth, decreased invasion and metastasis, shortened telomeres, and morphological features of crisis. Whereas telomerase was not essential for malignant behavior, expression of human telomerase reverse transcriptase enabled cells from serially transplanted tumors that had ceased growth to reacquire tumorigenicity. Moreover, telomerase-negative oncogene-expressing cells were tumorigenic only when transplanted using tissue reconstruction techniques; human telomerase reverse transcriptase was required for cells to form tumors when cells were injected subcutaneously. This work provides a new model to study crisis in an in vivo setting and its effects on malignancy; despite having invasive and metastatic properties, cells are eventually driven into crisis by proliferation in the absence of a telomere maintenance mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research