• Open Access

Telomerase activation without shortening of telomeric 3′-overhang is a poor prognostic factor in human colorectal cancer


To whom correspondence should be addressed.
E-mail: eiso@hiroshima-u.ac.jp


Our previous report demonstrated a good correlation between high telomerase activity of cancer tissues and a poor prognosis of patients with colorectal cancers, except for several cases. To elucidate the additional factors that contribute to patient prognosis, the correlation among the expression levels of telomere binding proteins (TBP), the lengths of telomeres, the lengths of telomere 3′-overhang (3′-OH) and telomerase activity in 106 paired colorectal cancer and corresponding noncancerous mucosa (NCM) specimens were examined. The expression levels of eight TBP genes (TRF1, TRF2, TIN2, TANK1, TANK2, POT1, RAP1 and TPP1) were analyzed. Among the 106 cases, 35 cases had shortened telomeres (<7 kb), 15 had shortened 3′-OH (3′-OH length ratio of cancer/NCM <0.5) and 88 were classified as telomerase-activated cancers (activity ratio of cancer/NCM >2). Comparison between NCM and cancer in each case showed that all TBP except for POT1 were downregulated in cancers. A survival analysis using a Cox proportional hazard model showed that the survival rate of the telomerase-activated cases with shortened 3′-OH and that of telomerase-inactivated cases were significantly better than that of telomerase-activated cases without 3′-OH shortening, that is, restored or maintained 3′-OH (P = 0.018). In the telomerase-activated cancers, the length of 3′-OH was significantly correlated with the expression levels of POT1. Elongation of telomeric overhang by telomerase, which might be regulated by POT1, may contribute to the increase of malignant potential in colorectal cancers. (Cancer Sci 2011; 102: 330–335)