Human telomerase accelerates growth of lens epithelial cells through regulation of the genes mediating RB/E2F pathway

Oncogene. 2002 May 23;21(23):3784-91. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1205455.


Telomerase is a specialized reverse transcriptase that extends telomeres of eukaryotic chromosomes. The catalytic core of human telomerase is composed of an RNA template known as hTER (human telomerase RNA) and a protein subunit named hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase). We have been studying other functions of the telomerase besides its major role in telomere maintenance. In our previous work, we have demonstrated that the hTERT can functionally interact with a rabbit TER to regulate expression of other genes and also attenuate the induced apoptosis. Here we report that overexpression of hTERT in a human lens epithelial cell line accelerates growth of the transfected lens epithelial cells. Associated with the acceleration of cell growth, expression of p53, p21 and GCIP (Grap2 cyclin-D interacting protein) is downregulated in the hTERT-transfected cells. With the downregulation of p21 and GCIP, the retinoblastoma protein (RB) is completely hyperphosphorylated in the hTERT-transfected cells. As expected, in the presence of RB hyperphosphorylation, the E2F transactivity is upregulated. Inhibition of telomerase activity abolishes the observed growth acceleration and also the related molecular changes. Furthermore, expression of hTERT in telomerase-negative human lens epithelial cells derived from primary cultures also accelerates growth of the transfected cells. Taken together, our results suggest that hTERT, when overexpressed in human lens epithelial cells, accelerates cell growth rate through regulation of RB/E2F pathway and possibly other genes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Cycle Proteins*
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / cytology*
  • Lens, Crystalline / enzymology*
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Telomerase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Transcription Factors
  • Telomerase