Distribution of TERT promoter mutations in pediatric and adult tumors of the nervous system

Acta Neuropathol. 2013 Dec;126(6):907-15. doi: 10.1007/s00401-013-1195-5. Epub 2013 Oct 24.


Hot spot mutations in the promoter region of telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) have recently been described in several human tumor entities. These mutations result in an upregulation of the telomerase complex activity and thus constitute a relevant mechanism for immortalization of tumor cells. Knowledge of the TERT promoter status in tumors is likely to be of interest for molecular classification and as a potential target for therapy. We, therefore, performed a systematic analysis of TERT promoter mutations in 1,515 tumors of the human nervous system and its coverings including 373 pediatric and 1,142 adult patients. We detected a total of 327 mutations. TERT promoter mutations were exceedingly rare in tumors typically encountered in pediatric patients. In entities typically encountered in adult patients TERT promoter mutations were strongly associated with older age (p < 0.0001). Highest mutation frequencies were detected in gliosarcomas (81 %), oligodendrogliomas (78 %), oligoastrocytomas (58 %), primary glioblastomas (54 %), and solitary fibrous tumors (50 %). Related to other molecular alterations, TERT promoter mutations were strongly associated with 1p/19q loss (p < 0.0001), but inversely associated with loss of ATRX expression (p < 0.0001) and IDH1/IDH2 mutations (p < 0.0001). TERT promoter mutations are typically found in adult patients and occur in a highly tumor type-associated distribution.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Glioma / genetics*
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Telomerase / genetics*


  • TERT protein, human
  • Telomerase