Reprogramming murine telomerase rapidly inhibits the growth of mouse cancer cells in vitro and in vivo

Mol Cancer Ther. 2010 Feb;9(2):438-49. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-09-0682. Epub 2010 Feb 2.


Telomerase plays a critical role in cancer, prompting the pursuit of various telomerase-based therapeutic strategies. One such strategy, telomerase interference, exploits the high telomerase activity in cancer cells and reprograms telomerase to encode "toxic" telomeres. To date, telomerase interference has been tested in human cancer cells xenografted into mice, an approach that does not recapitulate spontaneous malignancy and offers few insights about host toxicities, because human telomerase is targeted in a mouse host. To address these limitations, we designed and validated two new gene constructs specifically targeting mouse telomerase: mutant template mouse telomerase RNA (MT-mTer) and small interfering RNA against wild-type mouse telomerase RNA (α-mTer-siRNA). Using lentiviral delivery in mouse prostate cancer cells, we achieved α-mTer-siRNA-mediated knockdown of wild-type mTer (80% depletion) and concurrent overexpression of MT-mTer (50-fold). We showed that the two constructs effectively synergize to reprogram murine telomerase to add mutant instead of wild-type telomeric repeats, resulting in rapid telomeric uncapping (5-fold increase in DNA damage foci). This, in turn, led to rapid and significant apoptosis (>90% of cells) and growth inhibition in vitro (90% reduction in viable cell mass) and in vivo (75% reduction in tumor allograft wet weight). In summary, we have shown that mouse cancer cells are vulnerable to direct telomerase interference using novel murine telomerase-targeting constructs; this approach can now be used to study the true therapeutic potential of telomerase interference in mouse spontaneous cancer models.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Telomerase / metabolism*


  • Telomerase