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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jul 3;98(14):7982-7.

A low threshold level of expression of mutant-template telomerase RNA inhibits human tumor cell proliferation.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0448, USA.


The ribonucleoprotein telomerase synthesizes telomeric DNA by copying an intrinsic RNA template. In most cancer cells, telomerase is highly activated. Here we report a telomerase-based antitumor strategy: expression of mutant-template telomerase RNAs in human cancer cells. We expressed mutant-template human telomerase RNAs in prostate (LNCaP) and breast (MCF-7) cancer cell lines. Even a low threshold level of expression of telomerase RNA gene constructs containing various mutant templates, but not the control wild-type template, decreased cellular viability and increased apoptosis. This occurred despite the retention of normal levels of the endogenous wild-type telomerase RNA and endogenous wild-type telomerase activity and unaltered stable telomere lengths. In vivo tumor xenografts of a breast cancer cell line expressing a mutant-template telomerase RNA also had decreased growth rates. Therefore, mutant-template telomerase RNAs exert a strongly dominant-negative effect on cell proliferation and tumor growth. These results support the potential use of mutant-template telomerase RNA expression as an antineoplastic strategy.

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