Induction of alternative lengthening of telomeres-associated PML bodies by p53/p21 requires HP1 proteins.J Cell Biol. 2009 Jun 01; 185(5):797-810.JC
Alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) is a recombination-mediated process that maintains telomeres in telomerase-negative cancer cells. In asynchronously dividing ALT-positive cell populations, a small fraction of the cells have ALT-associated promyelocytic leukemia nuclear bodies (APBs), which contain (TTAGGG)n DNA and telomere-binding proteins. We found that restoring p53 function in ALT cells caused p21 up-regulation, growth arrest/senescence, and a large increase in cells containing APBs. Knockdown of p21 significantly reduced p53-mediated induction of APBs. Moreover, we found that heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) is present in APBs, and knockdown of HP1alpha and/or HP1gamma prevented p53-mediated APB induction, which suggests that HP1-mediated chromatin compaction is required for APB formation. Therefore, although the presence of APBs in a cell line or tumor is an excellent qualitative marker for ALT, the association of APBs with growth arrest/senescence and with "closed" telomeric chromatin, which is likely to repress recombination, suggests there is no simple correlation between ALT activity level and the number of APBs or APB-positive cells.