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TERC is an RNA component of telomerase. However, TERC is also ubiquitously expressed in most human terminally differentiated cells, which don't have telomerase activity. The function of TERC in these cells is largely unknown. Here, we report that TERC enhances the expression and secretion of inflammatory cytokines by stimulating NK-κB pathway in a telomerase-independent manner. The ectopic expression of TERC in telomerase-negative cells alters the expression of 431 genes with high enrichment of those involved in cellular immunity. We perform genome-wide screening using a previously identified 'binding motif' of TERC and identify 14 genes that are transcriptionally regulated by TERC. Among them, four genes (LIN37, TPRG1L, TYROBP and USP16) are demonstrated to stimulate the activation of NK-κB pathway. Mechanistically, TERC associates with the promoter of these genes through forming RNA-DNA triplexes, thereby enhancing their transcription. In vivo, expression levels of TERC and TERC target genes (TYROBP, TPRG1L and USP16) are upregulated in patients with inflammation-related diseases such as type II diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Collectively, these results reveal an unknown function of TERC on stimulating inflammatory response and highlight a new mechanism by which TERC modulates gene transcription. TERC may be a new target for the development of anti-inflammation therapeutics.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Nucleic acids research
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