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4.0 - 1st August 1998


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Cloning and identification of genes that associate with mammalian replicative senescence.

Gonos ES, Derventzi A, Kveiborg M, Agiostratidou G, Kassem M, Clark BF, Jat PS, Rattan SI

National Hellenic Research Foundation, Institute of Biological Research and Biotechnology, Athens, Greece. sgonos@eie.gr

Exp Cell Res 1998 Apr 10;240(1):66-74

Cellular senescence and limited proliferative capacity of normal diploid cells has a dominant phenotype over immortality of cancerous cells, suggesting its regulation by the expression of a set of genes. In order to isolate the genes that associate with senescence, we have employed a clonal system of conditional SV40 T antigen rat embryo fibroblast cell lines which undergo senescence upon T antigen inactivation. Construction of cDNA libraries from two conditional cell lines and application of differential screening and subtractive hybridization techniques have resulted in the cloning of eight senescence-induced genes (SGP-2/Apo J, alpha 1-procollagen, osteonectin, fibronectin, SM22, cytochrome C oxidase, GTP-alpha, and a novel gene) and a senescence-repressed gene (FRS-2). Three of these genes encode for extracellular matrix proteins, others are involved in the calcium-dependent signal transduction pathways, while the SGP-2/Apo J gene may have a cellular protective function. RNA analysis has shown that the senescence-associated genes are overexpressed in both normal rat embryonic fibroblasts and human osteoblasts cell cultures undergoing aging in vitro. In comparison, the expression of these genes in a rat fibroblast immortalized cell line (208F cells) was down-regulated after both its partial and its full transformation by ras oncogenes. Thus, cloning of senescence-associated genes opens up new ways to elucidate and/or to modulate aging and cancer.


Cloning and characterization of human and mouse telomerase RNA gene promoter sequences.

Zhao JQ, Hoare SF, McFarlane R, Muir S, Parkinson EK, Black DM, Keith WN

CRC Department of Medical Oncology, University of Glasgow, UK.

Oncogene 1998 Mar 12;16(10):1345-1350

Variation in telomerase activity is correlated with cellular senescence and tumour progression. However, although the enzymatic activity of telomerase has been well studied, very little is known about how expression of telomerase genes is regulated in mammalian cells. We have therefore cloned the promoter regions of the human (hTR), and mouse, (terc), telomerase RNA genes in order to identify the regulatory elements controlling telomerase RNA gene transcription. 1.76 kb encompassing the hTR gene promoter region was sequenced, as was 4 kb encompassing the terc promoter. No significant sequence similarity could be detected in comparisons between human and mouse 5'-regions, flanking the transcribed sequences. However, both the human and mouse telomerase RNA genes are within CpG islands and may therefore be under the regulation of DNA methylation. Transient expression of hTR-reporter gene constructs in HeLa and GM847 cells identified the elements responsible for promoter activity are contained in a 231 bp region upstream of the transcriptional start site. Transient expression of terc-reporter gene constructs in Swiss3T3 and A9 cells identified the elements responsible for promoter activity are contained in a 73 bp region upstream of the transcriptional start site. These studies have implications for novel transcription targeted cancer therapies.


The implication of telomerase activity and telomere stability for replicative aging and cellular immortality (Review).

Engelhardt M, Martens UM

Department of Hematology/Oncology, University of Freiburg, 79106 Freiburg, Germany.

Oncol Rep 1998 Oct;5(5):1043-1052

Telomerase and telomeres have been shown to be involved in the control of cell proliferation, the regulation of cell senescence and the unlimited proliferation capacity of malignant cells. Human telomeres are specialized chromosomal end structures composed of TTAGGG repeats. They function to protect chromosomes from degradation, fusion and recombination. Since the termini of linear molecules are replicated only in the 5'-3' direction by conventional DNA polymerases and require an RNA primer to initiate DNA synthesis, the removal of the RNA primer results in DNA loss with each cell division. To date, telomere shortening has been observed in most dividing somatic cells, eventually leading to cell senescence when critically short telomeres are reached. Telomerase has been identified as a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that can synthesize telomeric repeats onto chromosomes. Borderline telomerase activity has been detected in human primitive hematopoietic cells and in stimulated lymphocytes which increased with cytokine induced ex vivo expansion. However, in most other normal somatic cells, telomerase has not been detected, and consequently telomere shortening can be anticipated after a limited number of population doublings. In contrast, spontaneously immortalized tumor cell lines and the majority of malignant tumors demonstrate high telomerase activity, stable telomere length and unlimited proliferative potential. Mechanisms for telomerase and telomere length regulation are under extensive investigation. These have included the cloning of the RNA component and telomerase associated proteins, antisense experiments that have demonstrated progressive telomere length shortening in the absence of telomerase, and the identification of telomere binding proteins which may regulate telomerase by creating a negative feedback signal. This review aims to summarize important results in the rapidly moving field of telomeres and telomerase.

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