Previous studies in mice have demonstrated antagonistic effects of telomerase loss on carcinogenesis. Telomere attrition can promote genome instability, thereby stimulating initiation of early-stage cancers, but can also inhibit tumorigenesis by promoting permanent cell growth arrest or death. Human cancers likely develop in cell lineages with low levels of telomerase, leading to telomere losses in early lesions, followed by subsequent activation of telomerase. Mouse models constitutively lacking telomerase have thus not addressed how telomere losses within telomerase-proficient cells have an impact on carcinogenesis. Using a novel transgenic mouse model, Begus-Nahrmann et al. demonstrate in this issue of the JCI that transient telomere dysfunction in telomerase-proficient animals is a potent stimulus of tumor formation.
Jennifer J. Wanat, F. Brad Johnson