Bioinspired chemical probe approach targeting telomerase reverse transcriptase

Project: Research project

Project Details


Telomerase has attracted significant attention as a potential target for understanding the aging process and for the treatment of cancer, since telomeres and telomerase have important roles in the transformation and survival of cancer cells. Previous prevailing strategies for targeting telomerase were based on the assumption that in cancer cells, telomere-length maintenance was the sole pro-survival function of this assembly. However, increasingly evidence strongly indicates that a) inhibition of the telomere-lengthening activity of telomerase is not a magic bullet treatment for cancer, and b) there is a much larger role for telomerase in key cellular pathways and these functions are not well understood. Although there have been promising clinical candidates among telomerase inhibitors, the translation of telomerase-targeted therapies to the clinic remains elusive and frustratingly slow. This lack of progress is due in part to the growing list of unanswered questions surrounding telomerase and its role in cancer biology; notably, that hTERT has non-canonical functions separate from its telomere-lengthening activity that are linked to cancer cell survival. This proposal builds on the collaboration between the Scheidt and Kron research groups to bring our expertise in chemical synthesis and cancer biology to bear on key gaps in the knowledge surrounding hTERT, its non-canonical functions, and its involvement in cancer cell survival. We have discovered that small molecules based on the natural product chrolactomycin inhibit telomerase and provide a unique platform for probe development. Based on robust chemical and biological results, we propose to first develop enhanced small molecule probes with improved efficacy. These compounds will enable precise covalent modification of hTERT catalytic function without perturbing the overall complex assembly. The following Aims will focus on exploring the use of these new tools to explore the role(s) of telomerase in DNA damage repair and cell senescence through in-depth analysis of multiple functions of telomerase as a buffer of cell stress and determinant of cell immortality. The long-term goal of this project is to understand and leverage the molecular basis for how these natural product-based molecular tools impact the telomere lengthening and most importantly, non-canonical functions of hTERT. Ultimately, this new knowledge will drive the development of new understanding of telomerase and its biological roles.
Effective start/end date9/1/205/31/25


  • National Cancer Institute (5R01CA254047-03)


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