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Cancer Res. 1999 Dec 1;59(23):5917-21.

Estrogen activates telomerase.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, Kanazawa University, Ishikawa, Japan.


Telomerase activity is present in most malignant tumors and provides a mechanism for the unlimited potential for division of neoplastic cells. Although telomerase is known to be a regulated enzyme, the factors and mechanisms involved in telomerase regulation are not well understood. In the present study, we examined the effects of estrogen on telomerase activity. Telomerase activity in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive MCF-7 cells was up-regulated by the treatment with 17beta-estradiol. This activation accompanied up-regulation of the telomerase catalytic subunit, hTERT mRNA. Gel shift assays revealed that the imperfect palindromic estrogen-responsive element in the hTERT promoter specifically binds to ER. Transient expression assays using luciferase reporter plasmids containing various fragments of hTERT promoter showed that this imperfect palindromic estrogen-responsive element is responsible for transcriptional activation by ligand-activated ER. We also found that estrogen activates c-Myc expression in MCF-7 cells and that E-boxes in the hTERT promoter that bind c-Myc/Max play additional roles in estrogen-induced transactivation of hTERT. Estrogen thus activates telomerase via direct and indirect effects on the hTERT promoter. These findings may help elucidate the mechanisms of hormonal control of telomerase activity and aid understanding of the roles of sex steroids in cellular senescence and aging as well as estrogen-induced carcinogenesis.

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