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01 2018 Nature communications

HoxC5 and miR-615-3p target newly evolved genomic regions to repress hTERT and inhibit tumorigenesis.


Yan T, Ooi WF, Qamra A, Cheung A, Ma D, Sundaram GM, Xu C, Xing M, Poon L, Wang J, Loh YP, Ho JHJ, Ng JJQ, Ramlee MK, Aswad L, Rozen SG, Ghosh S, Bard FA, Sampath P, Tergaonkar V, Davies JOJ, Hughes JR, Goh E, Bi X, Fullwood MJ, Tan P, Li S


The repression of telomerase activity during cellular differentiation promotes replicative aging and functions as a physiological barrier for tumorigenesis in long-lived mammals, including humans. However, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unclear. Here we describe how miR-615-3p represses hTERT expression. mir-615-3p is located in an intron of the HOXC5 gene, a member of the highly conserved homeobox family of transcription factors controlling embryogenesis and development. Unexpectedly, we found that HoxC5 also represses hTERT expression by disrupting the long-range interaction between hTERT promoter and its distal enhancer. The 3’UTR of hTERT and its upstream enhancer region are well conserved in long-lived primates. Both mir-615-3p and HOXC5 are activated upon differentiation, which constitute a feed-forward loop that coordinates transcriptional and post-transcriptional repression of hTERT during cellular differentiation. Deregulation of HOXC5 and mir-615-3p expression may contribute to the activation of hTERT in human cancers.

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