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Cell Transplant. 2003;12(4):365-77.

Overexpression of telomerase confers a survival advantage through suppression of TRF1 gene expression while maintaining differentiation characteristics in K562 cells.

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  • 1Medical Research Institute and Department of Hematology, Tokyo Women's Medical University, Japan.


Leukemic stem cells that expressed endogenous telomerase activity were induced to show overexpression of exogenous hTERT and were analyzed for biological changes in order to assess the possible influence of telomerase gene therapy on the transplantation of normal hematopoietic stem cells. Introduction of hTERT into K562, a telomerase-positive immortal cell line, resulted in a 2.5-fold elevation of telomerase activity and the lengthening of telomeres by 6 kb to 23 kb. Real-time fluorescent PCR, which could perform quantitative analysis of transcripts, revealed a 175-fold increase in hTERT expression, suggesting the posttranscriptional regulation of telomerase. Ectopic expression of hTERT in K562 cells showed a survival advantage during culture in the absence of serum. Expression of mRNA for the telomeric-repeat binding factor 1 (TRF1) and caspase-3 activity were both decreased in hTERT-transfected K562 cells. Transduced cells retained their usual phenotypic characteristics, differentiation ability, and signal transduction response to TPA. These data suggest that ectopic expression of hTERT by normal hematopoietic stem cells may confer a survival advantage without changing their innate biological characteristics.

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