[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The telomerase reverse transcriptase synthesizes new telomeres onto chromosome ends by copying from a short template within its integral RNA component. During telomere synthesis, telomerase adds multiple short DNA repeats successively, a property known as repeat addition processivity. However, the consequences of defects in processivity on telomere length maintenance are not fully known. Germline mutations in telomerase cause haploinsufficiency in syndromes of telomere shortening, which most commonly manifest in the age-related disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We identified two pulmonary fibrosis families that share two non-synonymous substitutions in the catalytic domain of the telomerase reverse transcriptase gene hTERT: V791I and V867M. The two variants fell on the same hTERT allele and were associated with telomere shortening. Genealogy suggested that the pedigrees shared a single ancestor from the nineteenth century, and genetic studies confirmed the two families had a common founder. Functional studies indicated that, although the double mutant did not dramatically affect first repeat addition, hTERT V791I-V867M showed severe defects in telomere repeat addition processivity in vitro. Our data identify an ancestral mutation in telomerase with a novel loss-of-function mechanism. They indicate that telomere repeat addition processivity is a critical determinant of telomere length and telomere-mediated disease.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Idiopathic interstitial pneumonias (IIPs) have a progressive and often fatal course, and their enigmatic etiology has complicated approaches to effective therapies. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is the most common of IIPs and shares with IIPs an increased incidence with age and unexplained scarring in the lung. Short telomeres limit tissue renewal capacity in the lung and germ-line mutations in telomerase components, hTERT and hTR, underlie inheritance in a subset of families with IPF. To examine the hypothesis that short telomeres contribute to disease risk in sporadic IIPs, we recruited patients who have no family history and examined telomere length in leukocytes and in alveolar cells. To screen for mutations, we sequenced hTERT and hTR. We also reviewed the cases for features of a telomere syndrome. IIP patients had shorter leukocyte telomeres than age-matched controls (P < 0.0001). In a subset (10%), IIP patients had telomere lengths below the first percentile for their age. Similar to familial cases with mutations, IPF patients had short telomeres in alveolar epithelial cells (P < 0.0001). Although telomerase mutations were rare, detected in 1 of 100 patients, we identified a cluster of individuals (3%) with IPF and cryptogenic liver cirrhosis, another feature of a telomere syndrome. Short telomeres are thus a signature in IIPs and likely play a role in their age-related onset. The clustering of cryptogenic liver cirrhosis with IPF suggests that the telomere shortening we identify has consequences and can contribute to what appears clinically as idiopathic progressive organ failure in the lung and the liver.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2008; 105(35):13051-6. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is progressive and often fatal; causes of familial clustering of the disease are unknown. Germ-line mutations in the genes hTERT and hTR, encoding telomerase reverse transcriptase and telomerase RNA, respectively, cause autosomal dominant dyskeratosis congenita, a rare hereditary disorder associated with premature death from aplastic anemia and pulmonary fibrosis.
To test the hypothesis that familial idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis may be caused by short telomeres, we screened 73 probands from the Vanderbilt Familial Pulmonary Fibrosis Registry for mutations in hTERT and hTR.
Six probands (8%) had heterozygous mutations in hTERT or hTR; mutant telomerase resulted in short telomeres. Asymptomatic subjects with mutant telomerase also had short telomeres, suggesting that they may be at risk for the disease. We did not identify any of the classic features of dyskeratosis congenita in five of the six families.
Mutations in the genes encoding telomerase components can appear as familial idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Our findings support the idea that pathways leading to telomere shortening are involved in the pathogenesis of this disease.
New England Journal of Medicine 03/2007; 356(13):1317-26. · 51.66 Impact Factor