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BACKGROUND - Dysplasia and adenocarcinoma developing in Barrett's esophagus (BE) are not always endoscopically identifiable. Molecular markers are needed for early recognition of these focal lesions and to identify patients at increased risk of developing adenocarcinoma. The aim of the current study was to correlate increased telomerase activity (TA) with dysplasia and adenocarcinoma occurring in the setting of BE.
MATERIALS AND METHODS - Esophageal mucosal biopsies were obtained from patients (N=62) who had pathologically verified BE at esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). Mucosal biopsies were also obtained from the gastric fundus as controls. Based on histopathology, patients were divided into three groups: 1) BE without dysplasia (n=24); 2) BE with dysplasia (both high grade and low grade, n=13); and 3) BE with adenocarcinoma (n=25). TA was measured by a PCR-based assay (TRAPeze® ELISA Telomerase Detection Kit). Statistical analyses were performed using one-way ANOVA and post-hoc Bonferroni testing.
RESULTS - TA was significantly higher in biopsies of BE with dyplasia and BE with adenocarcinoma than in BE without dysplasia. Subgroup analyses did not reveal any significant correlations between TA and patient age, length of BE, or presence of gastritis.
CONCLUSIONS - Telomerase activity in esophageal mucosal biopsies of BE may constitute a useful biomarker for the early detection of esophageal dysplasia and adenocarcinoma.
A recent genome-wide association study of lung cancer among never-smoking females in Asia demonstrated that the rs2736100 polymorphism in the TERT-CLPTM1L locus on chromosome 5p15.33 was strongly and significantly associated with risk of adenocarcinoma of the lung. The telomerase gene TERT is a reverse transcriptase that is critical for telomere replication and stabilization by controlling telomere length. We previously found that longer telomere length measured in peripheral white blood cell DNA was associated with increased risk of lung cancer in a prospective cohort study of smoking males in Finland. To follow up on this finding, we carried out a nested case-control study of 215 female lung cancer cases and 215 female controls, 94% of whom were never-smokers, in the prospective Shanghai Women's Health Study cohort. There was a dose-response relationship between tertiles of telomere length and risk of lung cancer (odds ratio (OR), 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0, 1.4 [0.8-2.5], and 2.2 [1.2-4.0], respectively; P trend = 0.003). Further, the association was unchanged by the length of time from blood collection to case diagnosis. In addition, the rs2736100 G allele, which we previously have shown to be associated with risk of lung cancer in this cohort, was significantly associated with longer telomere length in these same study subjects (P trend = 0.030). Our findings suggest that individuals with longer telomere length in peripheral white blood cells may have an increased risk of lung cancer, but require replication in additional prospective cohorts and populations.
TERT-locus SNPs and leukocyte telomere measures are reportedly associated with risks of multiple cancers. Using the Illumina custom genotyping array iCOGs, we analyzed ∼480 SNPs at the TERT locus in breast (n = 103,991), ovarian (n = 39,774) and BRCA1 mutation carrier (n = 11,705) cancer cases and controls. Leukocyte telomere measurements were also available for 53,724 participants. Most associations cluster into three independent peaks. The minor allele at the peak 1 SNP rs2736108 associates with longer telomeres (P = 5.8 × 10(-7)), lower risks for estrogen receptor (ER)-negative (P = 1.0 × 10(-8)) and BRCA1 mutation carrier (P = 1.1 × 10(-5)) breast cancers and altered promoter assay signal. The minor allele at the peak 2 SNP rs7705526 associates with longer telomeres (P = 2.3 × 10(-14)), higher risk of low-malignant-potential ovarian cancer (P = 1.3 × 10(-15)) and greater promoter activity. The minor alleles at the peak 3 SNPs rs10069690 and rs2242652 increase ER-negative (P = 1.2 × 10(-12)) and BRCA1 mutation carrier (P = 1.6 × 10(-14)) breast and invasive ovarian (P = 1.3 × 10(-11)) cancer risks but not via altered telomere length. The cancer risk alleles of rs2242652 and rs10069690, respectively, increase silencing and generate a truncated TERT splice variant.
Telomerase is a multi-subunit enzyme that reverse transcribes telomere repeats onto the ends of linear eukaryotic chromosomes and is therefore critical for genome stability. S. cerevisiae telomerase activity is cell-cycle regulated; telomeres are not elongated during G1 phase. Previous work has shown that Est1 protein levels are low during G1 phase, preventing telomerase complex assembly. However, the pathway targeting Est1p for degradation remained uncharacterized. Here, we show that Est1p stability through the cell cycle mirrors that of Clb2p, a known target of the Anaphase Promoting Complex (APC). Indeed, Est1p is stabilized by mutations in both essential and non-essential components of the APC. Mutations of putative Destruction boxes (D-boxes), regions shown to be important for recognition of known APC substrates, stabilize Est1p, suggesting that Est1p is likely to be targeted for degradation directly by the APC. However, we do not detect degradation or ubiquitination of recombinant Est1p by the APC in vitro, suggesting either that the recombinant protein lacks necessary post-translational modification and/or conformation, or that the APC affects Est1p degradation by an indirect mechanism. Together, these studies shed light on the regulation of yeast telomerase assembly and demonstrate a new connection between telomere maintenance and cell cycle regulation pathways.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and often fatal lung disease for which there is no known treatment. Although the traditional paradigm of IPF pathogenesis emphasized chronic inflammation as the primary driver of fibrotic remodeling, more recent insights have challenged this view. Linkage analysis and candidate gene approaches have identified four genes that cause the inherited form of IPF, familial interstitial pneumonia (FIP). These four genes encode two surfactant proteins, surfactant protein C (encoded by SFTPC) and surfactant protein A2 (SFTPA2), and two components of the telomerase complex, telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and the RNA component of telomerase (TERC). In this review, we discuss how investigating these mutations, as well as genetic variants identified in other inherited disorders associated with pulmonary fibrosis, are providing new insights into the pathogenesis of common idiopathic interstitial lung diseases, particularly IPF. Studies in this area have highlighted key roles for epithelial cell injury and dysfunction in the development of lung fibrosis. In addition, genetic approaches have uncovered the importance of several processes - including endoplasmic reticulum stress and the unfolded protein response, DNA-damage and -repair pathways, and cellular senescence - that might provide new therapeutic targets in fibrotic lung diseases.
Human chromosome ends are capped by shelterin, a protein complex that protects the natural ends from being recognized as sites of DNA damage and also regulates the telomere-replicating enzyme, telomerase. Shelterin includes the heterodimeric POT1-TPP1 protein, which binds the telomeric single-stranded DNA tail. TPP1 has been implicated both in recruiting telomerase to telomeres and in stimulating telomerase processivity (the addition of multiple DNA repeats after a single primer-binding event). Determining the mechanisms of these activities has been difficult, especially because genetic perturbations also tend to affect the essential chromosome end-protection function of TPP1 (refs 15-17). Here we identify separation-of-function mutants of human TPP1 that retain full telomere-capping function in vitro and in vivo, yet are defective in binding human telomerase. The seven separation-of-function mutations map to a patch of amino acids on the surface of TPP1, the TEL patch, that both recruits telomerase to telomeres and promotes high-processivity DNA synthesis, indicating that these two activities are manifestations of the same molecular interaction. Given that the interaction between telomerase and TPP1 is required for telomerase function in vivo, the TEL patch of TPP1 provides a new target for anticancer drug development.
Studies in humans and in mice have highlighted the importance of short telomeres and impaired mitochondrial function in driving age-related functional decline in the heart. Although telomere and mitochondrial dysfunction have been viewed mainly in isolation, recent studies in telomerase-deficient mice have provided evidence for an intimate link between these two processes. Telomere dysfunction induces a profound p53-dependent repression of the master regulators of mitochondrial biogenesis and function, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator (PGC)-1α and PGC-1β in the heart, which leads to bioenergetic compromise due to impaired oxidative phosphorylation and ATP generation. This telomere-p53-PGC mitochondrial/metabolic axis integrates many factors linked to heart aging including increased DNA damage, p53 activation, mitochondrial, and metabolic dysfunction and provides a molecular basis of how dysfunctional telomeres can compromise cardiomyocytes and stem cell compartments in the heart to precipitate cardiac aging.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is characterized by interstitial lung infiltrates, dyspnea, and progressive respiratory failure. Reports linking telomerase mutations to familial interstitial pneumonia (FIP) suggest that telomerase activity and telomere length maintenance are important in disease pathogenesis. To investigate the role of telomerase in lung fibrotic remodeling, intratracheal bleomycin was administered to mice deficient in telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) or telomerase RNA component (TERC) and to wild-type controls. TERT-deficient and TERC-deficient mice were interbred to the F6 and F4 generation, respectively, when they developed skin manifestations and infertility. Fibrosis was scored using a semiquantitative scale and total lung collagen was measured using a hydroxyprolinemicroplate assay. Telomere lengths were measured in peripheral blood leukocytes and isolated type II alveolar epithelial cells (AECs). Telomerase activity in type II AECs was measured using a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based system. Following bleomycin, TERT-deficient and TERC-deficient mice developed an equivalent inflammatory response and similar lung fibrosis (by scoring of lung sections and total lung collagen content) compared to controls, a pattern seen in both early (F1) and later (F6 TERT and F4 TERC) generations. Telomere lengths were reduced in peripheral blood leukocytes and isolated type II AECs from F6 TERT-deficient and F4 TERC-deficient mice compared to controls. Telomerase deficiency in a murine model leads to telomere shortening, but does not predispose to enhanced bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis. Additional genetic or environmental factors may be necessary for development of fibrosis in the presence of telomerase deficiency.
Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein complex that is required for maintenance of linear chromosome ends (telomeres). In yeast, the Est2 protein reverse transcribes a short template region of the TLC1 RNA using the chromosome terminus to prime replication. Yeast telomeres contain heterogeneous G(1-3)T sequences that arise from incomplete reverse transcription of the TLC1 template and alignment of the DNA primer at multiple sites within the template region. We have previously described mutations in the essential N-terminal TEN domain of Est2p that alter telomere sequences. Here, we demonstrate that one of these mutants, glutamic acid 76 to lysine (est2-LT(E76K)), restricts possible alignments between the DNA primer and the TLC1 template. In addition, this mutant exhibits increased processivity in vivo. Within the context of the telomerase enzyme, the Est2p TEN domain is thought to contribute to enzyme processivity by mediating an anchor-site interaction with the DNA primer. We show that binding of the purified TEN domain (residues 1-161) to telomeric DNA is enhanced by the E76K mutation. These results support the idea that the anchor-site interaction contributes to telomerase processivity and suggest a role for the anchor site of yeast telomerase in mediating primer-template alignment within the active site.
Telomerase is a multisubunit enzyme that maintains genome stability through its role in telomere replication. Although the Est3 protein is long recognized as an essential telomerase component, how it associates with and functions in the telomerase complex has remained enigmatic. Here we provide the first evidence of a direct interaction between Saccharomyces cerevisiae Est3p and the catalytic protein subunit (Est2p) by demonstrating that recombinant Est3p binds the purified telomerase essential N-terminal (TEN) domain of Est2p in vitro. Mutations in a small cluster of amino acids predicted to lie on the surface of Est3p disrupt this interaction with Est2p, reduce assembly of Est3p with telomerase in vivo, and cause telomere shortening and senescence. We also show that recombinant Est3p stimulates telomerase activity above basal levels in vitro in a manner dependent on the Est2p TEN domain interaction. Together, these results define a direct binding interaction between Est3p and Est2p and reconcile the effect of S. cerevisiae Est3p with previous experiments showing that Est3p homologs in related yeast species influence telomerase activity. Additionally, it contributes functional support to the idea that Est3p is structurally related to the mammalian shelterin protein, TPP1, which also influences telomerase activity through interaction with the Est2p homolog, TERT.