Kodama, S., Mori, I., Roy, K., Yang, Z., Suzuki, K. and Watanabe, M. Culture Condition-Dependent Senescence-Like Growth Arrest and Immortalization in Rodent Embryo Cells.
We investigated the telomerase activity, telomere length, and replicative life span of cells from human embryos and rodent embryos (mouse, rat and Syrian hamster). We used two culture conditions for rodent embryo cells whereby the cells were plated at a density of 2 × 105 into a 25-cm2 flask and subcultured every 3 days or every 10 days. We found that nearly 100% of the cultures of rodent embryo cells become immortal when they are subcultured using the 10-day culture protocol. These rodent embryo cells retain telomerase activity and long telomeres (19–50 kb) in the long-term cultures, whereas human embryo cells rapidly deplete telomerase activity associated with significant shortening of telomeres, and then they senesce. In contrast to the results from 10-day cultures, we found that some mouse cell cultures and most Syrian hamster cell cultures arrest cell growth after 13 and 29 population doublings, respectively, while retaining substantial levels of telomerase activity and experiencing no significant loss of telomeres when the cells were subcultured using the 3-day culture protocol. This growth arrest is phenotypically indistinguishable from cellular senescence. The present results suggest that in rodent cells the onset of senescence-like arrest can be activated without repression of telomerase, and that this activation pathway can be bypassed easily under certain culture conditions, such as the 10-day culture protocol.