Telomere dysfunction resulting from telomere shortening and deregulation of shelterin components has been linked to the pathogenesis of age-related disorders, including cancer. Recent evidence suggests that BRCA1/2 (BRCA1 and BRCA2) tumor suppressor gene products play an important role in telomere maintenance. Although telomere shortening has been reported in BRCA1/2 carriers, the direct effects of BRCA1/2 haploinsufficiency on telomere maintenance and predisposition to cancer development are not completely understood. In this study, we assessed the telomere-associated and telomere-proximal gene expression profiles in peripheral blood leukocytes from patients with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, compared to samples from sporadic and familial breast cancer individuals. We found that 25 genes, including TINF2 gene (a negative regulator of telomere length), were significantly differentially expressed in BRCA1 carriers. Leukocyte telomere length analysis revealed that BRCA1/2 carriers had relatively shorter telomeres than healthy controls. Further, affected BRCA1/2 carriers were well differentiated from unaffected BRCA1/2 carriers by the expression of telomere-proximal genes. Our results link BRCA1/2 haploinsufficiency to changes in telomere length, telomere-associated as well as telomere-proximal gene expression. Thus, this work supports the effect of BRCA1/2 haploinsufficiency in the biology underlying telomere dysfunction in cancer development. Future studies evaluating these findings will require a large study population.
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