Telomerase as a Potential Regulator of Tissue Progenitor Cells

Steven E. Artandi

Abstract Telomerase, the reverse transcriptase that synthesizes telomeres, comprises two minimal subunits, TERT, the protein subunit, and TERC, the RNA subunit that provides the template for telomere addition (Blackburn 2001, Smogorzewska and de Lange 2004). Telomerase is intimately associated with progenitor cell compartments in vivo and with cancers. This association between telomerase and actively proliferating normal and malignant cells is likely due in part to the need for telomere synthesis to offset the end replication problem. However, recent data implicate telomerase as contributing in a more direct fashion to the proliferation of tissue progenitor cells, and this action of telomerase in facilitating progenitor cell proliferation is independent of its function in adding telomere repeats.

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