Telomerase activity in Papanicolaou smear-negative exfoliated cervical cells and its association with lesions and oncogenic human papillomaviruses

Gynecol Oncol. 2000 Jun;77(3):394-8. doi: 10.1006/gyno.2000.5779.


Objective: The goal of this study was to evaluate telomerase activity in exfoliated cervical cells and its association with cytology, pathology, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Methods: Telomerase activity and HPV DNA sequences were examined in the exfoliated cervical cells from a general population of 245 women aged more than 30 years undergoing routine cervical screening by Papanicolaou smear. The women who were found to have telomerase activity or abnormal cytology in their exfoliated cervical cells were examined for cervical lesions by colposcopy and biopsy.

Results: Cytology for our population (mean, 56 years) revealed only one abnormal smear (1/245, 0.4%), in which a cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade I (CIN I) lesion was found. The exfoliated cervical cells used to prepare the smear were negative for telomerase and contained low-risk HPV DNA. Telomerase activity was found in 16 exfoliated cell samples (16/245, 6.5%); high-risk HPV DNA was found in 9 of these samples (9/16, 56%) and 9 of the biopsy specimens that could be evaluated from patients testing positive for telomerase revealed CIN I lesions (9/11, 82%).

Conclusions: Telomerase activity is often associated with high-risk HPV infection and it is suggested that telomerase assay can help to detect occult cervical lesions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Papillomaviridae* / genetics
  • Papillomavirus Infections / enzymology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / enzymology*
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / enzymology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / virology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*
  • Vaginal Smears


  • DNA, Viral
  • Telomerase