News of the WeekCell Biology

A Possible New Partner for Telomerase

Science  20 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5393, pp. 1395-1397
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5393.1395

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On page 1484, researchers describe the discovery in human cells of a protein that may be a key switch in the control of cellular aging. The team's evidence suggests that the newly discovered protein, called tankyrase, determines whether telomerase--an enxyme that may help keep cancer cells and a few others immortal by rebuilding the ends of chromosomes after each division--can do its job. Tankyrase apparently does this by causing the removal of another protein that would otherwise block telomerase's access to the chromosome ends. If tankyrase does play this role, the way might be open to developing compounds that exploit the new enzyme to control cell life-span. These might include new anticancer agents that work by inhibiting tankyrase, thereby blocking telomerase activity and making cancer cells mortal again.