Inhibition of telomerase activity by a hammerhead ribozyme targeting the RNA component of telomerase in human melanoma cells

Marco Folini, Gennaro Colella, Raffaella Villa, Susanna Lualdi, Maria Grazia Daidone, Nadia Zaffaroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reactivation of telomerase, an RNA-dependent DNA polymerase that synthesizes new telomeric repeats at the end of chromosomes, is a very common feature in human cancers. Telomerase is thought to be essential in maintaining the proliferative capacity of tumor cells and, as a consequence, it could represent an attractive target for new anti-cancer therapies. In this study, we generated a hammerhead ribozyme composed of a catalytic domain with flanking sequences complementary to the RNA component of human telomerase and designed to cleave specifically a site located at the end of the telomerase template sequence. In vitro the ribozyme induced cleavage of a synthetic RNA substrate obtained by cloning a portion of the RNA component of human telomerase. The extent of cleavage was dependent on the ribozyme/substrate ratio as well as the Mg2+ concentration. Moreover, when added to cell extracts from two human melanoma cell lines (JR8 and M14), or three melanoma surgical specimens, the ribozyme inhibited telomerase activity in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. When the ribozyme was delivered to growing JR8 melanoma cells by (N-(1-(2,3 dioleoxyloxy)propil)- N,N,N trimethylammonium methylsulfate-mediated transfer, a marked inhibition of telomerase activity was observed. Next, the ribozyme sequence was cloned in an expression vector and JR8 cells were transfected with it. The cell clones obtained showed a reduced telomerase activity and telomerase RNA levels and expressed the ribozyme. Moreover, ribozyme transfectants had significantly longer doubling times than control cells and showed a dendritic appearance in monolayer culture. No telomere shortening, however, was observed in these clones. Overall, our results indicate that the hammerhead ribozyme is a potentially useful tool for the inactivation of telomerase in human tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-267
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Cationic liposome
  • Gene expression vector
  • Telomere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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