Correlation of the expression of human telomerase subunits with telomerase activity in normal skin and skin tumors

Cancer. 1999 Nov 15;86(10):2038-44. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(19991115)86:10<2038::aid-cncr22>;2-a.


Background: Telomerase activation is thought to be crucial for the continued growth or progression of cancer cells. Three major subunits of human telomerase, human telomerase RNA (hTR), telomerase-associated protein (TP1), and human telomerase catalytic subunit (hTERT) have been identified recently. In the current study, the expression of these telomerase subunits was examined in various human skin tumors and in normal skin samples, and the correlation of their expression with telomerase activity was evaluated.

Methods: Forty-five skin tumors, including benign, premalignant, and malignant tumors, and 19 samples of normal skin were analyzed by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction for the expression of telomerase subunits and by telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay for telomerase activity.

Results: TP1 expression was found in 43 of 45 skin tumors (95.6%) and in all normal skin samples analyzed. hTR expression was found in 42 of 45 skin tumors (93.3%) and in 18 of 19 normal skin samples (94.7%). In contrast, hTERT expression was detected in 33 of 45 skin tumors (73.3%) and in only 3 of 19 normal skin samples (15.8%). Telomerase activity was positive in 33 of 45 skin tumors (73.3%) and in 3 of 19 normal skin samples (15.8%). All together, 53 of 64 cases (82.8%) were concordant for both results (P < 0.001), i.e., telomerase activity positive and hTERT positive, or telomerase activity negative and hTERT negative.

Conclusions: Activation of telomerase activity in skin tumors is strongly correlated with hTERT expression.

MeSH terms

  • Catalytic Domain
  • Humans
  • Peptide Fragments / biosynthesis*
  • Reference Values
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / enzymology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Telomerase / biosynthesis*
  • Telomere / ultrastructure


  • Peptide Fragments
  • Telomerase