Telomere DNA Damage Response Regulates Cancer Stem Cell Phenotype
Lagunas, Angelica Maria
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Chromosome ends are protected by telomeres that prevent DNA damage response and degradation. When telomeres become critically short, the DNA damage response is activated at chromosome ends which induces cellular senescence or apoptosis. Telomeres are protected by the double stranded DNA binding protein TRF2 and maintained by telomerase or a recombination based mechanism known as alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). Telomerase is expressed in the basal layer of the epidermis, and stem cells in epidermis have longer telomeres than proliferating populations. Stem cell expansion has been associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in cancer. EMT is a critical process in cancer progression in which cells acquire spindle morphology, migrate from the primary tumor, and spread to distant anatomic sites. Loss of TRF2 expression observed in human squamous cell carcinomas expanded metastatic cancer stem cells during mouse skin carcinogenesis. To determine if telomerase inhibition could block the TRF2-null mediated expansion of metastatic clones, we characterized skin carcinogenesis in a conditional TRF2/Terc double null mutant mouse. Loss of TRF2 and Terc expression resulted in telomere DNA damage, severely depleted CD34 + and Lgr6+ cancer stem cells, and induced terminal differentiation of metastatic cancer cells. However a novel cancer stem cell population evolved in primary tumors exhibiting genomic instability, ALT, and EMT. Surprisingly we discovered that metastatic clones evolved prior to histopathologic onset of primary tumors. These results have important implications for understanding the evolution and treatment of metastatic cancer.
Subjecttelomeres, EMT, cancer stem cells