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J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Nov;121(5):1088-94.

Inhibition of the epidermal growth factor receptor suppresses telomerase activity in HSC-1 human cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma cells.

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Division of Dermatology, Clinical Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan.


Activation of telomerase, which stabilizes the telomere length of chromosomes, is crucial for the continued growth or progression of cancer cells. In a previous study, we showed that telomerase is frequently activated in skin tumors. Because epidermal growth factor plays an important role during the tumorigenesis of epithelial tissue, we have now examined the role of epidermal growth factor signaling in regulating telomerase activity using HSC-1 human cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma cells. Treatment of HSC-1 cells with AG 1478, an inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor, or with a neutralizing antibody to the epidermal growth factor receptor, significantly suppressed their telomerase activity, in association with inhibiting their growth. The suppression of telomerase activity was obvious at day 3 and was maximal at day 5 after treatment with AG 1478. The suppression of telomerase activity correlated with the decreased expression of human telomerase catalytic subunit (hTERT) mRNA, the rate-limiting determinant of its enzyme activity. The expression of c-Myc and of Sp1 proteins, transcription factors for hTERT, were also suppressed by AG 1478 in HSC-1 cells, but the expression of Ets-2 protein, another transcription factor, was not affected. The expression of Mad-1, a competitor of c-Myc, was increased. Inhibition of ERK, Src, or Akt suppressed telomerase activity in HSC-1 cells, but to a lesser extent than did treatment with AG 1478. Serum starvation suppressed telomerase activity, but addition of epidermal growth factor or transforming growth factor alpha did not increase it, indicating the involvement of other epidermal growth factor receptor ligands in the activation of telomerase in HSC-1 cells. These data indicate that blockade of the epidermal growth factor receptor might be effective in inhibiting telomerase activity of squamous cell carcinomas, which would lead to the suppression of tumor growth.

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