Development of a high throughput, molecular diagnostic assay for predicting telomerase activity in breast cancer cell lines and tissues
© Current Science Ltd 2000
Published: 12 March 2000
Telomerase is a cellular enzyme that helps to provide genomic stability in tumor cells by maintaining the integrity of telomeres. Telomerase is an RNA-dependent DNA polymerase that contains a protein component (hTERT) and an associated RNA (hTR), which is used as a template for telomere repeat addition. Telomerase activity, while not detectable in most normal human somatic cells, is associated with approximately 85% of malignant human cancers overall, including over 90% of breast cancers.
We have optimized a novel, quantitative, high-throughput telomerase activity assay using fluorescently labelled primers and Real Time quantitation via the ABI Prism 7700 (a.k.a., the TaqMan). Using established breast cancer cell lines and a subset of breast tumors, we demonstrate that telomerase levels quantitated from the TaqMan-based assay closely correlate with values obtained using the traditional, gel-based telomerase activity assay (TRAP). In addition, we have assessed the levels of both hTERT mRNA and hTR in each of our samples via RT-PCR to determine whether relative amounts or a ratio of the two telomerase components correlate with activity in a given sample. Our ultimate goal is to develop a Real Time, fluorescent RT-PCR assay to simultaneously measure hTERT and hTR messages in breast tumor samples, in an attempt to convert the enzymatic telomerase activity assay into a quantitative nucleic acid test to predict levels of activity in routinely processed clinical specimens.