Epigenetic Regulation of Telomere Maintenance for Therapeutic Interventions in Gliomas

Genes (Basel). 2017 May 17;8(5):145. doi: 10.3390/genes8050145.


High-grade astrocytoma of WHO grade 4 termed glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a common human brain tumor with poor patient outcome. Astrocytoma demonstrates two known telomere maintenance mechanisms (TMMs) based on telomerase activity (TA) and on alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). ALT is associated with lower tumor grades and better outcome. In contrast to ALT, regulation of TA in tumors by direct mutation and epigenetic activation of the hTERT promoter is well established. Here, we summarize the genetic background of TMMs in non-malignant cells and in cancer, in addition to clinical and pathological features of gliomas. Furthermore, we present new evidence for epigenetic mechanisms (EMs) involved in regulation of ALT and TA with special emphasis on human diffuse gliomas as potential therapeutic drug targets. We discuss the role of TMM associated telomeric chromatin factors such as DNA and histone modifying enzymes and non-coding RNAs including microRNAs and long telomeric TERRA transcripts.

Keywords: CpG DNA methylation; chromatin modification; epigenetic therapy; high grade glioma; histone deacetylase; histone methylation and acetylation; miRNA; telomere maintenance; telomeric repeat-containing RNA.

Publication types

  • Review