Evaluation of telomerase activity in non-genital Bowen's disease

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We investigated the level of telomerase activity (TA) in 17 specimens of non-genital Bowen's disease (BD) and in 14 specimens of skin without sun exposure (non-exposed skin) using a non-isotopic PCR-based telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) assay. Expression of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT; the catalytic subunit of telomerase) was also evaluated by immunochemistry in the non-genital BD tissues. Moderate to high levels of TA were detected in 41.2% of 17 non-genital BD specimens (P = 0.001). In contrast, TA was not evident in non-exposed skin. Recently, nucleolin was reported to be associated with hTERT, so we used this antibody instead of hTERT antibody. Immunohistochemistry showed that nucleolin expression was associated with high TA levels in non-genital BD. Our results also revealed differences of TA levels among non-genital BD specimens. High levels of TA in those specimens were not age related. Five out of 7 specimens (71.4%) with moderate to high TA levels were from sun-exposed sites, while the remaining 10 specimens with low levels of TA were from non-exposed sites. These results suggested that cellular DNA damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation might be associated with an increase of TA in non-genital BD. Among non-genital BD specimens, 4 out of 17 (23.5%) showed high levels of TA (median relative TA value: 79.8%; P = 0.003), which might be associated with immortalization or transformation to invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

Conflicts of interest

None declared.

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