Epigenetic control provides a mechanism for the reversible silencing of telomerase expression that occurs as a natural consequence of differentiation. Significant overlap between indirect telomerase regulation pathways and cell cycle checkpoint pathways exist, suggesting that these discrete genetic elements (namely, p21, p53, and hTERT) synergistically cooperate to inhibit tumorigenesis. Mutations in these pathways have been known to contribute to cancer formation. However, the incorporation of epigenetic regulatory mechanisms provides another line of defense against these negative occurrences. These proteins are also implicated in the process of senescence, caused in eukaryotic cell lines by telomere shortening. Although the debate continues, there is significant evidence to classify the process of cellular senescence as an in vitro model for human aging. In addition, the study of stem cells gives information about the down-regulation of hTERT in the aging process. Diseases such as Werner's syndrome, ATM (ataxia telangiectasia mutated kinase), DKC (dyskeratosis congenita), and atherosclerosis have been linked to aberrant telomerase expression and other aging-related tissue malfunctions could be related to the presence of senescent cells changing the cellular microenvironment. Therefore, restoring telomerase activity as a putative therapeutic strategy necessitates further study to elucidate the intricacies linking genetic and epigenetic modulations of hTERT.
- Alternate lengthening of telomeres
- Telomerase recruitment
- Werner syndrome