Copyright © 2014 Neoplasia Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
Increased proliferation rates as well as resistance to apoptosis are considered major obstacles for the treatment of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), thus highlighting the need for novel therapeutic approaches. Since senescence has been recognized as a physiological barrier against tumorigenesis, senescence-based therapy could represent a new strategy against CML. DNA demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) was reported to induce cellular senescence but underlying mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Here, we report that exposure to DAC triggers senescence in chronic leukemia cell lines as evidenced by increased senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity and lysosomal mass, accompanied by an up-regulation of cell cycle-related genes. We provide evidence that DAC is able to decrease telomere length, to reduce telomerase activity and to decrease human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) expression through decreased binding of c-myc to the hTERT promoter. Altogether, our results reveal the role of c-myc in telomere-dependent DAC-induced senescence and therefore provide new clues for improving chronic human leukemia treatments.