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Telomerase in the human organism

Abstract

The intent of this review is to describe what is known and unknown about telomerase in somatic cells of the human organism. First, we consider the telomerase enzyme. Human telomerase ribonucleoproteins undergo at least three stages of cellular biogenesis: accumulation, catalytic activation and recruitment to the telomere. Next, we describe the patterns of telomerase regulation in the human soma. Telomerase activation in some cell types appears to offset proliferation-dependent telomere shortening, delaying but not defeating the inherent mitotic clock. Finally, we elaborate the connection between telomerase misregulation and human disease, in the contexts of inappropriate telomerase activation and telomerase deficiency. We discuss how our current perspectives on telomerase function could be applied to improving human health.

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Acknowledgements

We thank colleagues in the RNA, telomerase and DKC communities for sharing their results prior to publication. We are particularly grateful to Judy Wong for major contributions to the ideas and results presented here. We thank Dragony Fu, Bobby Hogg, Michael Miller, Keren Witkin and Judy Wong for comments on a draft of this review. Funding for research in the laboratory of K Collins has been provided by the NIH, ACS, CRCC of California and Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

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Collins, K., Mitchell, J. Telomerase in the human organism. Oncogene 21, 564–579 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.onc.1205083

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Keywords

  • telomerase
  • RNA
  • ribonucleoprotein
  • somatic cell
  • cancer
  • dyskeratosis congenita

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