Expression of telomerase in normal and malignant rat hepatic epithelia


Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein that synthesizes telomeric DNA repeats onto the ends of chromosomes. More than 85% of human cancers express telomerase activity and a large proportion of human hepatocellular carcinomas are positive. To study the role of telomerase expression in rat hepatocarcinogenesis, telomerase activity was assayed in various rat tissues and in two types of liver epithelial cells: hepatocytes and hepatic epithelial stem-like cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that telomerase activity in rats is tissue-specific and stable with animal aging. Liver and testis were found to be telomerase positive, spleen had low or no activity, and kidney was negative. Telomerase activity did not change significantly in 18 month-old rats compared to 2 month-old rats, but was moderately (twofold) increased during liver regeneration induced by a 2/3's partial hepatectomy. Telomerase activity was detected in isolated rat hepatocytes and low passage hepatic epithelial stem-like cells (WB-F344). Telomerase activity displayed significant variations in a propagable clone of WB-F344 cells. At low passage levels after establishment in vitro (passages 4 – 9) non-tumorigenic WB-F344 cells expressed telomerase activity. During further in vitro passaging these cells lost expression of telomerase. Expression of telomerase in the tumor-derived lines of WB-F344 cells but not in the selectively cycled, parental lineages of these cells suggests that there may be a role for telomerase in hepatocarcinogenesis.

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Correspondence to William K Kaufmann.

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Golubovskaya, V., Presnell, S., Hooth, M. et al. Expression of telomerase in normal and malignant rat hepatic epithelia. Oncogene 15, 1233–1240 (1997).

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  • telomerase
  • rat liver
  • hepatocyte
  • stem cell
  • hepatocarcinogenesis

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