Targeting homologous recombination and telomerase in Barrett's adenocarcinoma: impact on telomere maintenance, genomic instability and tumor growth.
ABSTRACT: Homologous recombination (HR), a mechanism to accurately repair DNA in normal cells, is deregulated in cancer. Elevated/deregulated HR is implicated in genomic instability and telomere maintenance, which are critical lifelines of cancer cells. We have previously shown that HR activity is elevated and significantly contributes to genomic instability in Barrett's esophageal adenocarcinoma (BAC). The purpose of this study was to evaluate therapeutic potential of HR inhibition, alone and in combination with telomerase inhibition, in BAC. We demonstrate that telomerase inhibition in BAC cells increases HR activity, RAD51 expression, and association of RAD51 to telomeres. Suppression of HR leads to shorter telomeres as well as markedly reduced genomic instability in BAC cells over time. Combination of HR suppression (whether transgenic or chemical) with telomerase inhibition, causes a significant increase in telomere attrition and apoptotic death in all BAC cell lines tested, relative to either treatment alone. A subset of treated cells also stain positive for ?-galactosidase, indicating senescence. The combined treatment is also associated with decline in S-phase and a strong G2/M arrest, indicating massive telomere attrition. In a subcutaneous tumor model, the combined treatment resulted in the smallest tumors, which were even smaller (P=0.001) than those that resulted from either treatment alone. Even the tumors removed from these mice had significantly reduced telomeres and evidence of apoptosis. We therefore conclude that although telomeres are elongated by telomerase, elevated RAD51/HR assist in their maintenance/stabilization in BAC cells. Telomerase inhibitor prevents telomere elongation but induces RAD51/HR, which contributes to telomere maintenance/stabilization and prevention of apoptosis, reducing the efficacy of treatment. Combining HR inhibition with telomerase renders telomeres more vulnerable to degradation and significantly increases/expedites their attrition, leading to apoptosis. We therefore demonstrate that a therapy targeting HR and telomerase has the potential to prevent both tumor growth and genomic evolution in BAC.
Project description:TERT promoter mutations (TPMs) are the most common noncoding mutations in cancer. The timing and consequences of TPMs have not been fully established. Here, we show that TPMs acquired at the transition from benign nevus to malignant melanoma do not support telomere maintenance. In vitro experiments revealed that TPMs do not prevent telomere attrition, resulting in cells with critically short and unprotected telomeres. Immortalization by TPMs requires a gradual up-regulation of telomerase, coinciding with telomere fusions. These data suggest that TPMs contribute to tumorigenesis by promoting immortalization and genomic instability in two phases. In an initial phase, TPMs do not prevent bulk telomere shortening but extend cellular life span by healing the shortest telomeres. In the second phase, the critically short telomeres lead to genome instability and telomerase is further up-regulated to sustain cell proliferation.
Project description:Upon telomerase inactivation, telomeres gradually shorten with each cell division until cells enter replicative senescence. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the kinases Mec1/ATR and Tel1/ATM protect the genome during pre-senescence by preventing telomere-telomere fusions (T-TFs) and the subsequent genetic instability associated with fusion-bridge-breakage cycles. Here we report that T-TFs in mec1? tel1? cells can be suppressed by reducing the pool of available histones. This protection associates neither with changes in bulk telomere length nor with major changes in the structure of subtelomeric chromatin. We show that the absence of Mec1 and Tel1 strongly augments double-strand break (DSB) repair by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), which might contribute to the high frequency of T-TFs in mec1? tel1? cells. However, histone depletion does not prevent telomere fusions by inhibiting NHEJ, which is actually increased in histone-depleted cells. Rather, histone depletion protects telomeres from fusions by homologous recombination (HR), even though HR is proficient in maintaining the proliferative state of pre-senescent mec1? tel1? cells. Therefore, HR during pre-senescence not only helps stalled replication forks but also prevents T-TFs by a mechanism that, in contrast to the previous one, is promoted by a reduction in the histone pool and can occur in the absence of Rad51. Our results further suggest that the Mec1-dependent depletion of histones that occurs during pre-senescence in cells without telomerase (tlc1?) prevents T-TFs by favoring the processing of unprotected telomeres by Rad51-independent HR.
Project description:DNA double strand break (DSB) is one of the major damages that cause genome instability and cellular aging. The homologous recombination (HR)-mediated repair of DSBs plays an essential role in assurance of genome stability and cell longevity. Telomeres resemble DSBs and are competent for HR. Here we show that in budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae telomere recombination elicits genome instability and accelerates cellular aging. Inactivation of KEOPS subunit Cgi121 specifically inhibits telomere recombination, and significantly extends cell longevity in both telomerase-positive and pre-senescing telomerase-negative cells. Deletion of CGI121 in the short-lived yku80(tel) mutant restores lifespan to cgi121? level, supporting the function of Cgi121 in telomeric single-stranded DNA generation and thus in promotion of telomere recombination. Strikingly, inhibition of telomere recombination is able to further slow down the aging process in long-lived fob1? cells, in which rDNA recombination is restrained. Our study indicates that HR activity at telomeres interferes with telomerase to pose a negative impact on cellular longevity.
Project description:Telomeres protect against chromosomal damage. Accelerated telomere loss has been associated with premature aging syndromes such as Werner's syndrome and Dyskeratosis Congenita, while, progressive telomere loss activates a DNA damage response leading to chromosomal instability, typically observed in cancer cells and senescent cells. Therefore, identifying mechanisms of telomere length maintenance is critical for understanding human pathologies. In this paper we demonstrate that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a causal role in telomere shortening. Furthermore, hnRNPA2, a mitochondrial stress responsive lysine acetyltransferase (KAT) acetylates telomere histone H4at lysine 8 of (H4K8) and this acetylation is associated with telomere attrition. Cells containing dysfunctional mitochondria have higher telomere H4K8 acetylation and shorter telomeres independent of cell proliferation rates. Ectopic expression of KAT mutant hnRNPA2 rescued telomere length possibly due to impaired H4K8 acetylation coupled with inability to activate telomerase expression. The phenotypic outcome of telomere shortening in immortalized cells included chromosomal instability (end-fusions) and telomerase activation, typical of an oncogenic transformation; while in non-telomerase expressing fibroblasts, mitochondrial dysfunction induced-telomere attrition resulted in senescence. Our findings provide a mechanistic association between dysfunctional mitochondria and telomere loss and therefore describe a novel epigenetic signal for telomere length maintenance.
Project description:Telomeres interact with numerous proteins, including components of the shelterin complex, whose alteration, similarly to proliferation-induced telomere shortening, initiates cellular senescence. In tumors, telomere length is maintained by Telomerase activity or by the Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres mechanism, whose hallmark is the telomeric localization of the promyelocytic leukemia (PML) protein. Whether PML contributes to telomeres maintenance in normal cells is unknown. We show that in normal human fibroblasts the PML protein associates with few telomeres, preferentially when they are damaged. Proliferation-induced telomere attrition or their damage due to alteration of the shelterin complex enhances the telomeric localization of PML, which is increased in human T-lymphocytes derived from patients genetically deficient in telomerase. In normal fibroblasts, PML depletion induces telomere damage, nuclear and chromosomal abnormalities, and senescence. Expression of the leukemia protein PML/RAR? in hematopoietic progenitors displaces PML from telomeres and induces telomere shortening in the bone marrow of pre-leukemic mice. Our work provides a novel view of the physiologic function of PML, which participates in telomeres surveillance in normal cells. Our data further imply that a diminished PML function may contribute to cell senescence, genomic instability, and tumorigenesis.
Project description:Telomere maintenance protects the cell against genome instability and senescence. Accelerated telomere attrition is a characteristic of premature aging syndromes including Dyskeratosis congenita (DC). Mutations in hRTEL1 are associated with a severe form of DC called Hoyeraal-Hreidarsson syndrome (HHS). HHS patients carry short telomeres and HHS cells display telomere damage. Here we investigated how hRTEL1 contributes to telomere maintenance in human primary as well as tumor cells. Transient depletion of hRTEL1 resulted in rapid telomere shortening only in the context of telomerase-positive cells with very long telomeres and high levels of telomerase. The effect of hRTEL1 on telomere length is telomerase dependent without impacting telomerase biogenesis or targeting of the enzyme to telomeres. Instead, RTEL1 depletion led to a decrease in both G-overhang content and POT1 association with telomeres with limited telomere uncapping. Strikingly, overexpression of POT1 restored telomere length but not the overhang, demonstrating that G-overhang loss is the primary defect caused by RTEL1 depletion. We propose that hRTEL1 contributes to the maintenance of long telomeres by preserving long G-overhangs, thereby facilitating POT1 binding and elongation by telomerase.
Project description:Double strand breaks (DSBs) can be repaired via either Non-Homologous End Joining (NHEJ) or Homology directed Repair (HR). Telomeres, which resemble DSBs, are refractory to repair events in order to prevent chromosome end fusions and genomic instability. In some rare instances telomeres engage in Break-Induced Replication (BIR), a type of HR, in order to maintain telomere length in the absence of the enzyme telomerase. Here we have investigated how the yeast helicase, Mph1, affects DNA repair at both DSBs and telomeres. We have found that overexpressed Mph1 strongly inhibits BIR at internal DSBs however allows it to proceed at telomeres. Furthermore, while overexpressed Mph1 potently inhibits NHEJ at telomeres it has no effect on NHEJ at DSBs within the chromosome. At telomeres Mph1 is able to promote telomere uncapping and the accumulation of ssDNA, which results in premature senescence in the absence of telomerase. We propose that Mph1 is able to direct repair towards HR (thereby inhibiting NHEJ) at telomeres by remodeling them into a nuclease-sensitive structure, which promotes the accumulation of a recombinogenic ssDNA intermediate. We thus put forward that Mph1 is a double-edge sword at the telomere, it prevents NHEJ, but promotes senescence in cells with dysfunctional telomeres by increasing the levels of ssDNA.
Project description:The tumor suppressor protein BRCA2 is a key component of the homologous recombination pathway of DNA repair, acting as the loader of RAD51 recombinase at sites of double-strand breaks. Here we show that BRCA2 associates with telomeres during the S and G2 phases of the cell cycle and facilitates the loading of RAD51 onto telomeres. Conditional deletion of Brca2 and inhibition of Rad51 in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), but not inactivation of Brca1, led to shortening of telomeres and accumulation of fragmented telomeric signals--a hallmark of telomere fragility that is associated with replication defects. These findings suggest that BRCA2-mediated homologous recombination reactions contribute to the maintenance of telomere length by facilitating telomere replication and imply that BRCA2 has an essential role in maintaining telomere integrity during unchallenged cell proliferation. Mouse mammary tumors that lacked Brca2 accumulated telomere dysfunction-induced foci. Human breast tumors in which BRCA2 was mutated had shorter telomeres than those in which BRCA1 was mutated, suggesting that the genomic instability in BRCA2-deficient tumors was due in part to telomere dysfunction.
Project description:Ascending aortic aneurysms are mostly asymptomatic and present a great risk of aortic dissection or perforation. Consequently, ascending aortic aneurysms are a source of lethality with increased age. Biological aging results in progressive attrition of telomeres, which are the repetitive DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes. These telomeres play an important role in protection of genomic DNA from end-to-end fusions. Telomere maintenance and telomere attrition-associated senescence of endothelial and smooth muscle cells have been indicated to be part of the pathogenesis of degenerative vascular diseases. This systematic review provides an overview of telomeres, telomere-associated proteins and telomerase to the formation and progression of aneurysms of the thoracic ascending aorta. A better understanding of telomere regulation in the vascular pathology might provide new therapeutic approaches. Measurements of telomere length and telomerase activity could be potential prognostic biomarkers for increased risk of death in elderly patients suffering from an aortic aneurysm.
Project description:Replicative erosion of telomeres is naturally compensated by telomerase and studies in yeast and vertebrates show that homologous recombination can compensate for the absence of telomerase. We show that RAD51 protein, which catalyzes the key strand-invasion step of homologous recombination, is localized at Arabidopsis telomeres in absence of telomerase. Blocking the strand-transfer activity of the RAD51 in telomerase mutant plants results in a strikingly earlier onset of developmental defects, accompanied by increased numbers of end-to-end chromosome fusions. Imposing replication stress through knockout of RNaseH2 increases numbers of chromosome fusions and reduces the survival of these plants deficient for telomerase and homologous recombination. This finding suggests that RAD51-dependent homologous recombination acts as an essential backup to the telomerase for compensation of replicative telomere loss to ensure genome stability. Furthermore, we show that this positive role of RAD51 in telomere stability is dependent on the RTEL1 helicase. We propose that a RAD51 dependent break-induced replication process is activated in cells lacking telomerase activity, with RTEL1 responsible for D-loop dissolution after telomere replication.