Telomere shortening sensitizes cancer cells to selected cytotoxic agents: In vitro and in vivo studies and putative mechanisms

Orit Uziel, Einat Beery, Vladimir Dronichev, Katty Samocha, Sergei Gryaznov, Lola Weiss, Shimon Slavin, Michal Kushnir, Yardena Nordenberg, Claudette Rabinowitz, Baruch Rinkevich, Tania Zehavi, Meir Lahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Telomere/telomerase system has been recently recognized as an attractive target for anticancer therapy. Telomerase inhibition results in tumor regression and increased sensitivity to various cytotoxic drugs. However, it has not been fully established yet whether the mediator of these effects is telomerase inhibition per se or telomere shortening resulting from inhibition of telomerase activity. In addition, the characteristics and mechanisms of sensitization to cytotoxic drugs caused by telomerase inhibition has not been elucidated in a systematic manner. Methodology/Principal Findings: In this study we characterized the relative importance of telomerase inhibition versus telomere shortening in cancer cells. Sensitization of cancer cells to cytotoxic drugs was achieved by telomere shortening in a length dependent manner and not by telomerase inhibition per se. In our system this sensitization was related to the mechanism of action of the cytotoxic drug. In addition, telomere shortening affected also other cancer cell functions such as migration. Telomere shortening induced DNA damage whose repair was impaired after administration of cisplatinum while doxorubicin or vincristine did not affect the DNA repair. These findings were verified also in in vivo mouse model. The putative explanation underlying the phenotype induced by telomere shortening may be related to changes in expression of various microRNAs triggered by telomere shortening. Conclusions/Significance: To our best knowledge this is the first study characterizing the relative impact of telomerase inhibition and telomere shortening on several aspects of cancer cell phenotype, especially related to sensitivity to cytotoxic drugs and its putative mechanisms. The microRNA changes in cancer cells upon telomere shortening are novel information. These findings may facilitate the development of telomere based approaches in treatment of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9132
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - 9 Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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