TERT promoter mutations increase sense and antisense transcription from the TERT promoter.
- HIV Clinical and Translational Research
- Immune Endocrine and Epigenetics
Background: Chief among mechanisms of telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) reactivation is the appearance of mutations in the TERT promoter. The two main TERT promoter mutations are C>T transitions located -146C>T and -124C>T upstream from the translational start site. They generate a novel Ets/TCF binding site. Both mutations are mutually exclusive and -124C>T is strikingly overrepresented in most cancers. We investigated whether this mutational bias and mutual exclusion could be due to transcriptional constraints. Methods: We compared sense and antisense transcription of a panel of TERT promoter-luciferase vectors harboring the -124C>T and -146C>T mutations alone or together. lncRNA TAPAS levels were measured by RT-PCR. Results: Both mutations generally increased TERT transcription by 2-4-fold regardless of upstream and downstream regulatory elements. The double mutant increased transcription in an additive fashion, arguing against a direct transcriptional constraint. The -146C>T mutation, alone or in combination with -124C>T, also unleashed antisense transcription. In line with this finding, lncRNA TAPAS was higher in cells with mutated TERT promoter (T98G and U87) than in cells with wild-type promoter, suggesting that lncRNA TAPAS may balance the effect of TERT promoter mutations. Conclusions: -146C>T and -124C>T TERT promoter mutations increase TERT sense and antisense transcription, and the double mutant features higher transcription levels. Increased antisense transcription may contain TERT expression within sustainable levels.