Telomerase activity controls telomere length and plays a pivotal role in stem cells, aging, and cancer. Here, we report a molecular link between Wnt/β-catenin signaling and the expression of the telomerase subunit Tert. β-Catenin-deficient mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells have short telomeres; conversely, ES cell expressing an activated form of β-catenin (β-cat(ΔEx3/+)) have long telomeres. We show that β-catenin regulates Tert expression through the interaction with Klf4, a core component of the pluripotency transcriptional network. β-Catenin binds to the Tert promoter in a mouse intestinal tumor model and in human carcinoma cells. We uncover a previously unknown link between the stem cell and oncogenic potential whereby β-catenin regulates Tert expression, and thereby telomere length, which could be critical in human regenerative therapy and cancer.
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