Telomerase is expressed in ~90% of human cancer cell lines and tumor specimens, whereas its enzymatic activity is not detectable in most human somatic cells, suggesting that telomerase represents a highly attractive target for selective cancer treatment. Accordingly, various classes of telomerase inhibitors have been screened and developed in recent years. We and other researchers have successfully found that some dietary compounds can modulate telomerase activity in cancer cells. Telomerase inhibitors derived from food are subdivided into two groups: one group directly blocks the enzymatic activity of telomerase (e.g., catechin and sulfoquinovosyldiacylglycerol), and the other downregulates the expression of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), the catalytic subunit of human telomerase, via signal transduction pathways (e.g., retinoic acid and tocotrienol). In contrast, a few dietary components, including genistein and glycated lipid, induce cellular telomerase activity in several types of cancer cells, suggesting that they may be involved in tumor progression. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the effects of dietary factors on telomerase regulation in cancer cells and discusses their molecular mechanisms of action.
- Dietary compound