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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Nov 27;104(48):18952-7. Epub 2007 Nov 16.

Telomerase reverse transcriptase expression elevated by avian leukosis virus integration in B cell lymphomas.

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Department of Biology, The Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


Simple retroviruses induce tumors by integrating into the host genome, activating cellular oncogenes and microRNAs, or inactivating tumor suppressor genes. The identification of these genes elucidates molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis. In this study, we identified avian leukosis virus (ALV) proviral integration sites in rapid-onset B cell lymphomas arising <12 weeks after infection of chicken embryos. By using inverse PCR, 28 unique viral integration sites were identified in rapid-onset tumors. Integrations in the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) promoter/enhancer region were observed in four different tumors, suggesting that this is a common integration site. These provirus integrations ranged from 217 to 2,584 bp upstream of the TERT transcription initiation site and were all in the opposite transcriptional orientation to TERT. Southern blots of tumor samples demonstrated that these integrations are clonal and therefore occurred early in the process of tumorigenesis. Real-time RT-PCR showed overexpression of TERT mRNA in tumors harboring viral integrations in the TERT promoter. Telomerase activity was also up-regulated in these tumors; however, telomere-length alterations were not detected. Furthermore, viral LTR sequences directly enhanced the expression of luciferase reporters containing the TERT promoter sequences. This study documents retroviral up-regulation of cellular TERT by insertional activation to initiate or enhance tumor progression.

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