Tankyrase promotes telomere elongation in human cells

Curr Biol. 2000 Oct 19;10(20):1299-302. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(00)00752-1.


Human telomeres are maintained by telomerase, a reverse transcriptase that adds telomeric repeats to chromosome ends [1,2]. In human tumors and immortalized cells, telomeres are often maintained at a constant length setting [3,4], indicating that telomerase-mediated telomere elongation is tightly regulated. Tankyrase, a telomeric poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) [5], was identified through its interaction with TRF1 [6], a negative regulator of telomere extension by telomerase [7]. Tankyrase-mediated ADP-ribosylation inhibits binding of TRF1 to telomeric repeats in vitro [5], suggesting that tankyrase might regulate TRF1 and therefore control telomere dynamics in vivo. Here, we present evidence that tankyrase acts as a positive regulator of telomere elongation in vivo, apparently by inhibiting TRF1. Overexpression of tankyrase in the nucleus diminished the level of unmodified TRF1 in immunoblots and led to reduced immunofluorescence of TRF1 at interphase telomeres. Long-term overexpression of tankyrase in telomerase-positive human cells resulted in a gradual and progressive elongation of telomeres. A PARP-deficient form of tankyrase failed to affect TRF1 and did not alter telomere length dynamics, consistent with ADP-ribosylation of TRF1 as the main cause of altered telomere homeostasis. Our results indicate that tankyrase can induce telomere elongation in human cells. We propose that tankyrase-mediated ADP-ribosylation of TRF1 opens the telomeric complex, allowing access to telomerase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Tankyrases*
  • Telomere / physiology*
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 1
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 1
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Tankyrases
  • TNKS protein, human