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GABP couples oncogene signaling to telomere regulation in TERT promoter mutant cancer


Telomerase activation counteracts senescence and telomere erosion caused by uncontrolled proliferation. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) amplification drives proliferation while telomerase reverse transcriptase promoter (TERTp) mutations underlie telomerase reactivation through recruitment of GA-binding protein (GABP). EGFR amplification and TERTp mutations typically co-occur in glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive primary brain tumor. To determine if these two frequent alterations driving proliferation and immortality are functionally connected, we combine analyses of copy number, mRNA, and protein data from tumor tissue with pharmacologic and genetic perturbations. We demonstrate that proliferation arrest decreases TERT expression in a GABP-dependent manner and elucidate a critical proliferation-to-immortality pathway from EGFR to TERT expression selectively from the mutant TERTp through activation of AMP-mediated kinase (AMPK) and GABP upregulation. EGFR-AMPK signaling promotes telomerase activity and maintains telomere length. These results define how the tumor cell immortality mechanism keeps pace with persistent oncogene signaling and cell cycling.

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