Epigenetic Regulation of Inflammatory Gene Expression by Telomerase

Grants and Contracts Details


Innate immune responses are central to the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and are orchestrated through transcriptional networks involving epigenetic modification of the chromatin architecture. There is now increasing evidence that the chromatin state is affected by telomerase. In addition to its wellestablished function in synthesizing telomere repeats at the ends of chromosomes, the catalytic core telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) serves a direct role in facilitating the activation of gene expression programs. This second activity of TERT in permitting gene transcription appears to occur independently of its role in telomere homeostasis but may involve modification of the higher-order chromatin structure. Although telomerase activity correlates with the extent of atherosclerosis, a physiological role of this non-canonical activity of TERT in inflammation and atherosclerosis remains to be discovered. Our recent studies confirmed TERT expression in atherosclerosis. Telomerase activity is induced in activated macrophages, and TERTdeficiency alters macrophage inflammatory gene expression by inducing chromatin modifications reminiscent of gene silencing. Two specific aims are proposed to explore the significance of these findings and to test the hypothesis that TERT promotes inflammatory gene expression in macrophages through epigenetic chromatin modifications and contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. In Specific Aim 1 we will utilize a combination of cellular and molecular approaches to determine the transcriptional mechanisms by which TERT regulates macrophage inflammatory gene expression programs. In Specific Aim 2 we will determine the contribution of TERT to the development of atherosclerosis and test the hypothesis that TERTdependent activation of inflammatory gene expression in macrophages constitutes an important mechanism for the development of the disease. Ultimately, the results of these studies will not only characterize TERT as a chromatin modifier and novel regulatory protein orchestrating macrophage inflammatory gene expression but also advance our understanding of the inflammatory mechanisms contributing to the development of atherosclerosis.
Effective start/end date9/27/1212/31/15


  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: $1,243,605.00


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