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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26244

Title: The Role of Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase in Tumorigenisis
Authors: Taboski, Michael
Advisor: Harrington, Lea
Department: Medical Biophysics
Keywords: Telomerase
Issue Date: 17-Feb-2011
Abstract: The acquisition and maintenance of cell division potential are important characteristics of tumorigenesis. Human telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and telomerase RNA (TR) can immortalize cells through telomere maintenance, and telomerase activity is one factor that contributes to the in vitro transformation of normal cells. In vitro and in vivo evidence suggest that telomerase maintains telomeres as a functional multimer. In addition, hTERT may possess telomere maintenance-independent functions. To examine the effects of hTERT loss upon an in vitro generated tumorigenic cell line we created a tumorigenic cell line from human embryonic kidney cells through expression of the SV40 early region, H-RasG12V and a Cre-mediated excisable hTERT. These immortalized cells exhibited robust anchorage-independent colony growth and tumor formation in immuno-deficient mice. Cre recombinase expression resulted in the excision of hTERT from the tumorigenic cell lines, restoring cell mortality. A return to immortality was conferred by the re-introduction of wild-type hTERT, but not with hTERT point mutations in the N-terminus (hTEN) and reverse transcriptase (RT) domains that impair in vitro telomere elongation activity. The onset of cell mortality was not immediate, and the hTERT-excised tumorigenic cells exhibited clonal variation in the anchorage-independent colony growth assay and upon tumor formation in immuno-deficient mice. We hypothesized that tumorigenic potential was not related strictly to hTERT presence, but rather telomere length and/or integrity. To investigate this possibility we maintained the tumorigenic cell lines in the continuous presence of hTERT to permit telomere elongation prior to hTERT excision; subsequently, after hTERT excision tumor formation persisted, thus demonstrating a dependence on telomere length and not hTERT presence per se. To investigate the functional multimerization of hTERT in vivo we tested if two defective hTERT polypeptides with mutations in the hTEN and RT domains could restore telomere elongation activity in vivo. Unfortunately, during the course of these experiments an unanticipated recombination event occurred that restored a catalytically active hTERT transgene. Further in vivo analysis of hTERT multimerization should be carefully designed, accounting for the selective survival advantage bestowed by wild-type hTERT. This study provides compelling evidence that hTERT does not possess telomere maintenance-independent functions.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26244
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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