Identification of Mad as a repressor of the human telomerase (hTERT) gene.

PMID 10723141


Activation of telomerase, which has been frequently associated with cellular immortality, may constitute a key step in the development of human cancer. De-repression in the expression of its catalytic subunit hTERT gene has been proposed to directly link to the telomerase activation in tumor cells. Little is known about the mechanism how the hTERT gene is repressed in telomerase-negative mortal cells. This study was conducted, using an expression cloning approach, with the aim of identifying the gene(s) responsible for repressing the hTERT gene expression. Using this genetic screen, we isolated the transcription factor Mad as a repressor. Mutation of its DNA binding sites caused significant de-repression of hTERT promoter activity in mortal cells. This Mad-mediated repression of the hTERT promoter in mortal cells was counteracted by ectopic expression of Myc. The antagonism between Mad and Myc was also observed with an endogenous hTERT promoter. Their potential roles in differential hTERT promoter activities were further supported by the relative amounts of Mad and Myc proteins detected in immortal and mortal cells. Thus, Mad may be a direct negative regulator of hTERT in mortal cells and this repression mechanism can be inhibited by induction of Myc in immortal cells.