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Exp Ther Med. 2013 Jul;6(1):204-208. Epub 2013 Apr 29.

Aspirin inhibits human telomerase activation in unstable carotid plaques.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Jiangmen Central Hospital, Jiangmen, Guangdong 529070;


The activation of telomerase in unstable plaques is an important factor in atherosclerosis, and may be predictive of the risk of cerebrovascular diseases. Human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) is a subunit of telomerase that is essential for telomerase activation. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether aspirin inhibits the activation of telomerase and hTERT in unstable carotid plaques. Polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) derived from carotid plaques were isolated from the washing medium of angioplasty balloons, while circulating PMNs, isolated from arterial blood, served as the controls. A polymerase chain reaction-based telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to measure the telomerase activity in the cells following treatment with aspirin. The mRNA and protein expression of hTERT were detected by a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and western blot analysis, respectively. The results revealed that the atherosclerotic plaques were positive for telomerase activity, and that aspirin inhibited the telomerase activity of the PMNs derived from the plaques. In addition, aspirin was demonstrated to inhibit the mRNA and protein expression of hTERT through the suppression of hTERT transcriptional activity; however, it had no inhibitory effect on the telomerase activity of the circulating PMNs. Thus, the activation of telomerase in resident PMNs is critical in the instability of carotid plaques. The upregulation of telomerase and hTERT during the progression of atherosclerosis may indicate a role for telomerase in the vascular remodeling that occurs during atherogenesis. Aspirin was demonstrated to inhibit the activation of telomerase via an hTERT-dependent manner in the PMN cells of unstable carotid plaques, and thus hTERT may be considered as a target in the treatment of cerebrovascular diseases.


aspirin; telomerase activation; unstable carotid plaques

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