Immortal tumor cells and cell lines employ a telomere maintenance mechanism that allows them to escape the normal limits on proliferative potential. In the absence of telomerase, telomere length may be maintained by an alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) mechanism. All human ALT cell lines described thus far have nuclear domains of unknown function, termed ALT-associated promyelocytic leukemia bodies (APB), containing promyelocytic leukemia protein, telomeric DNA and telomere binding proteins. Here we describe telomerase-negative human cells with telomeres that contain a substantial proportion of nontelomeric DNA sequences (like telomerase-null Saccharomyces cerevisiae survivor type I cells) and that are maintained in the absence of APBs. In other respects, they resemble typical ALT cell lines: the telomeres are highly heterogeneous in length (ranging from very short to very long) and undergo rapid changes in length. In addition, these cells are capable of copying a targeted DNA tag from one telomere into other telomeres. These data show that APBs are not always essential for ALT-mediated telomere maintenance.