AIMS: To investigate the pattern of telomerase activity in hydatidiform mole as compared with normal placenta and choriocarcinoma, and to determine the prognostic significance of telomerase activity in hydatidiform mole. METHODS: Telomerase activity in 35 cases of hydatidiform mole, 35 normal placentas, one choriocarcinoma sample, and two choriocarcinoma cell lines (JAR, JEG3) was determined using the sensitive polymerase chain reaction based telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) assay. Two cases of breast carcinoma and two cases of ovarian carcinoma were also included as positive controls in the telomerase assay. RESULTS: Telomerase activity was detected in 11 of 30 early placentas (36.7%), one of five term placentas (20%), five of 27 hydatidiform moles which regressed spontaneously (18.5%), and six of eight hydatidiform moles which developed persistent trophoblastic disease (75%) (including three which developed metastases). Hydatidiform moles which subsequently developed persistent disease, especially those which metastasised, were more likely to express telomerase activity (p < 0.01). However, there was no significant difference in the frequency of telomerase activity between early placentas and hydatidiform mole. Strong telomerase activity was observed in choriocarcinoma tissue, choriocarcinoma cell lines, and ovarian and breast carcinomas. CONCLUSIONS: Telomerase activation occurs in hydatidiform mole with a similar incidence to early normal placentas. This supports the concept that hydatidiform mole is essentially an abnormal conceptus. There is an association between telomerase activation and the development of persistent trophoblastic disease. Further study is warrant to confirm the prognostic significance of telomerase activity in hydatidiform mole.
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