In yeast, telomere position effect (TPE) results in the reversible silencing of genes near telomeres. Here we demonstrate the presence of TPE in human cells. HeLa clones containing a luciferase reporter adjacent to a newly formed telomere express 10 times less luciferase than do control clones generated by random integration. Luciferase expression is restored by trichostatin A, a histone deacetylase inhibitor. Overexpression of a human telomerase reverse transcriptase complementary DNA results in telomere elongation and an additional 2- to 10-fold decrease in expression in telomeric dones but not control clones. The dependence of TPE on telomere length provides a mechanism for the modification of gene expression throughout the replicative life-span of human cells.
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