The epigenetic nature of telomeres is still controversial and different human cell lines might show diverse histone marks at telomeres. Epigenetic modifications regulate telomere length and telomerase activity that influence telomere structure and maintenance. Telomerase is responsible for telomere elongation and maintenance and is minimally composed of the catalytic protein component, telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and template forming RNA component, telomerase RNA (TERC). TERT promoter mutations may underpin some telomerase activation but regulation of the gene is not completely understood due to the complex interplay of epigenetic, transcriptional, and posttranscriptional modifications. Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) can maintain an indefinite, immortal, proliferation potential through their endogenous telomerase activity, maintenance of telomere length, and a bypass of replicative senescence in vitro. Differentiation of PSCs results in silencing of the TERT gene and an overall reversion to a mortal, somatic cell phenotype. The precise mechanisms for this controlled transcriptional silencing are complex. Promoter methylation has been suggested to be associated with epigenetic control of telomerase regulation which presents an important prospect for understanding cancer and stem cell biology. Control of down-regulation of telomerase during differentiation of PSCs provides a convenient model for the study of its endogenous regulation. Telomerase reactivation has the potential to reverse tissue degeneration, drive repair, and form a component of future tissue engineering strategies. Taken together it becomes clear that PSCs provide a unique system to understand telomerase regulation fully and drive this knowledge forward into aging and therapeutic application.
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Review Article| September 06 2021
Epigenetic features in regulation of telomeres and telomerase in stem cells
Nicholas R. Forsyth
The Guy Hilton Research Laboratories, School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Keele University, Stoke on Trent ST4 7QB, U.K.
Correspondence: Nicholas R. Forsyth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Fatma Dogan, Nicholas R. Forsyth; Epigenetic features in regulation of telomeres and telomerase in stem cells. Emerg Top Life Sci 2021; ETLS20200344. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/ETLS20200344
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