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A functional tandem-repeats polymorphism in the downstream of TERT is associated with the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Chinese population

Yang Zhang12, Hongxing Zhang2, Yun Zhai2, Zhifu Wang12, Fuchao Ma3, Hongxue Wang3, Peiyao Li2, Ying Zhang2, Lixia Yu2, Ying Cui3, Fuchu He12* and Gangqiao Zhou2*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China

2 State Key Laboratory of Proteomics, Beijing Proteome Research Center, Beijing Institute of Radiation Medicine, Beijing, China

3 Affiliated Cancer Hospital of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, Guangxi, China

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BMC Medicine 2011, 9:106  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-106

Published: 20 September 2011



Increases in human telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) expression and telomerase activity are frequently seen in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Recently, a variable tandem-repeats polymorphism, MNS16A, located in the downstream region of the TERT gene, was identified and reported to have an effect on TERT expression and telomerase activity. We examined whether the functional MNS16A was related to the risk of occurrence or progression of NPC in the Chinese population.


We genotyped the MNS16A polymorphism in a case-control study of 855 patients with NPC and 1036 cancer-free controls using PCR, and determined genotype by classifying the DNA band of 243 or 272 base pairs (bp) as the short (S) allele and 302 or 333 bp as the long (L) allele. The genetic associations with the risk of NPC were analyzed by logistic regression.


The MNS16A genotype was not associated with the progression of NPC. However, individuals carrying the S alleles (SL + SS genotype) had a significantly reduced risk of NPC occurrence compared with those carrying the LL genotype (odds ratio (OR) = 0. 71, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0. 52 to 0. 96, P = 0. 025). Using a immunohistochemical assay on the NPC tissues, the SL genotype carriers were found to have lower TERT expression than the LL genotype carriers (P = 0. 035).


Our study indicates that the TERT MNS16A polymorphism may contribute to the risk of NPC onset in Chinese population.