Tumor-specific activation of human telomerase reverses transcriptase promoter activity by activating enhancer-binding protein-2beta in human lung cancer cells

J Biol Chem. 2007 Sep 7;282(36):26460-70. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M610579200. Epub 2007 Jul 15.


The up-regulated expression and telomerase activity of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) are hallmarks of tumorigenesis. The hTERT promoter has been shown to promote hTERT gene expression selectively in tumor cells but not in normal cells. However, little is known about how tumor cells differentially activate hTERT transcription and induce telomerase activity. In this study, we identified activating enhancer-binding protein-2beta (AP-2beta) as a novel transcription factor that specifically binds to and activates the hTERT promoter in human lung cancer cells. AP-2beta was detected in hTERT promoter DNA-protein complexes formed in nuclear extracts prepared only from lung cancer cells but not from normal cells. We verified the tumor-specific binding activity of AP-2beta for the hTERT promoter in vitro and in vivo and detected high expression levels of AP-2beta in lung cancer cells. We found that ectopic expression of AP-2beta reactivated hTERT promoter-driven reporter green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene and endogenous hTERT gene expression in normal cells, enhanced GFP gene expression in lung cancer cells, and prolonged the life span of primary lung bronchial epithelial cells. Furthermore, we found that inhibition of endogenous AP-2beta expression by AP-2beta gene-specific small interfering RNAs effectively attenuated hTERT promoter-driven GFP expression, suppressed telomerase activity, accelerated telomere shortening, and inhibited tumor cell growth by induction of apoptosis in lung cancer cells. Our results demonstrate the tumor-specific activation of the hTERT promoter by AP-2beta and imply the potential of AP-2beta as a novel tumor marker or a cancer therapeutic target.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / enzymology*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology
  • Cell-Free System / enzymology
  • Cell-Free System / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic* / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic* / drug effects
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Humans
  • Lung / enzymology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neoplasm Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / enzymology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology
  • Telomerase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Telomerase / biosynthesis*
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Telomere / pathology
  • Transcription Factor AP-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcription Factor AP-2 / genetics
  • Transcription Factor AP-2 / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Transcription Factor AP-2
  • green fluorescent protein, Aequorea victoria
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • TERT protein, human
  • Telomerase