Expression of the human HIN-200 family member IFI 16 has been reported to suppress cell growth and contribute to the onset of cellular senescence. However the molecular events involved in this process have not been fully characterised. We fused IFI 16 to the estrogen receptor ligand-binding domain to establish an inducible model for studying the molecular events that cause these phenomena. In cells induced to express the ER-IFI 16 within the nucleus there was a decrease in cellular proliferation and concomitant growth arrest in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. Unlike previous reports, this did not appear to involve the p53-p21WAF1/CIP1-cdk2-pRb pathway. Following nuclear expression of ER-IFI 16 we noted senescence-like morphological changes and expression of senescence-associated β-galactosidase in growth arrested cells. Importantly, we also found a marked reduction in telomerase activity in arrested cells compared to controls. Moreover, IFI 16 and hTERT co-localised within the nucleus and these two proteins physically interacted in vivo and in vitro. Together, these data suggest that IFI 16 may act as an endogenous regulator of telomerase activity and, through its interaction with hTERT, contributes to the inhibition of proliferation and induces a senescence-like state. J. Cell. Biochem. 109: 103–112, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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