Myelosuppression in Patients Treated with the Telomerase Inhibitor Imetelstat Is Not Mediated through Activation of Toll-Like Receptors.

Baerlocher, Gabriela M.; Rusbuldt, Joshua; Bussolari, Jacqueline; Huang, Fei (2020). Myelosuppression in Patients Treated with the Telomerase Inhibitor Imetelstat Is Not Mediated through Activation of Toll-Like Receptors. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(18) MDPI 10.3390/ijms21186550

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Imetelstat sodium (GRN163L; hereafter, imetelstat) is a first-in-class telomerase inhibitor that has demonstrated activity in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Treatment with imetelstat has been associated with thrombocytopenia and other hematologic adverse effects that were manageable and reversible. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are proteins that recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns and stimulate innate immune and pro-apoptotic responses. Because imetelstat is an oligonucleotide, and some oligonucleotides can activate TLRs, we conducted an in vitro study to rule out the possibility of imetelstat-associated thrombocytopenia by off-target effects through activation of TLRs. We used HEK293 cell lines stably co-expressing a human TLR gene and an NFκB-inducible reporter to investigate whether imetelstat can activate TLR signaling. We treated the cells with imetelstat or control oligonucleotides for 20 h, and used absorbance of the culture media to calculate the reporter activity. Treatment with imetelstat within or beyond the clinically relevant concentrations had no stimulatory effect on TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, TLR5, TLR7, or TLR9. This result was not surprising since the structure of imetelstat does not meet the reported minimal structural requirements for TLR9 activation. Furthermore, imetelstat treatment of the MPN cell line HEL did not impact the expression of TLR signaling pathway target genes that are commonly induced by activation of different TLRs, whereas it significantly reduced its target gene hTERT, human telomerase reverse transcriptase, in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Hence, cytopenias, especially thrombocytopenia observed in some patients treated with imetelstat, are not mediated by off-target interactions with TLRs.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Haematology, Oncology, Infectious Diseases, Laboratory Medicine and Hospital Pharmacy (DOLS) > Clinic of Haematology and Central Haematological Laboratory
04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > BioMedical Research (DBMR) > Unit Childrens Hospital > Forschungsgruppe Hämatologie (Erwachsene)

UniBE Contributor:

Baerlocher, Gabriela M.


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Pierrette Durand Lüthi

Date Deposited:

05 Jan 2021 11:53

Last Modified:

05 Jan 2021 11:53

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Toll-like receptor imetelstat oligonucleotide telomerase inhibitor thrombocytopenia




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