Telomere maintenance by telomerase activity supports the infinite growth of cancer cells. MST-312, a synthetic telomerase inhibitor, gradually shortens telomeres at non-acute lethal doses and eventually induces senescence and apoptosis of telomerase-positive cancer cells. Here we report that MST-312 at higher doses works as a dual inhibitor of telomerase and DNA topoisomerase II and exhibits acute anti-proliferative effects on cancer cells and xenografted tumours in vivo. Our cell-based chemical fingerprinting approach revealed that cancer cells with shorter telomeres and lower expression of lamin A, a nuclear architectural protein, exhibited higher sensitivity to the acute deleterious effects of MST-312, accompanied by formation of telomere dysfunction-induced foci and DNA double-strand breaks. Telomere elongation and lamin A overexpression attenuated telomeric and non-telomeric DNA damage, respectively, and both conferred resistance to apoptosis induced by MST-312 and other DNA damaging anticancer agents. These observations suggest that sufficient pools of telomeres and a nuclear lamina component contribute to the cellular robustness against DNA damage induced by therapeutic treatment in human cancer cells.
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