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Gene. 2001 May 16;269(1-2):1-12.

Activity, function, and gene regulation of the catalytic subunit of telomerase (hTERT).

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Department of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294-1170, USA.


Recent interest in the regulation of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains chromosomal termini, has lead to the discovery and characterization of the catalytic subunit of telomerase, hTERT. Many studies have suggested that the transcription of hTERT represents the rate-limiting step in telomerase expression and key roles for hTERT have been implied in cellular aging, immortalization, and transformation. Before the characterization of the promoter of hTERT in 1999, regulatory mechanisms suggested for this gene were limited to speculation. The successful cloning and characterization of the hTERT 5' gene regulatory region has enabled its formal investigation and analysis of potential mechanisms controlling hTERT expression. Although these studies have provided important information about hTERT gene regulation, there has been some confusion regarding the nucleotide boundaries of this region, the location, number, and importance of various transcription factor binding motifs, and the results of promoter activity assays. We feel that this uncertainty, combined with the sheer volume of recent publications on hTERT regulation, calls for consolidation and review. In this analysis we examine recent advances in the regulation of the hTERT gene and attempt to resolve discrepancies resulting from the nearly simultaneous nature of publications in this fast-moving area. Additionally, we aim to summarize the extant knowledge of hTERT gene regulation and its role in important biological processes such as cancer and aging.

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