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Am J Hum Genet. 1999 Dec;65(6):1617-22.

Accelerated telomere shortening in the human inactive X chromosome.

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  • 1Grup de Mutagènesi, Departament de Genètica i de Microbiologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. jordi. surralles@blues.uab.es.


Telomeres are nucleoprotein complexes at the end of eukaryotic chromosomes, with important roles in the maintenance of genomic stability and in chromosome segregation. Normal somatic cells lose telomeric repeats with each cell division both in vivo and in vitro. To address a potential role of nuclear architecture and epigenetic factors in telomere-length dynamics, the length of the telomeres of the X chromosomes and the autosomes was measured in metaphases from blood lymphocytes of human females of various ages, by quantitative FISH with a peptide nucleic-acid telomeric probe in combination with an X-chromosome centromere-specific probe. The activation status of the X chromosomes was simultaneously visualized with antibodies against acetylated histone H4. We observed an accelerated shortening of telomeric repeats in the inactive X chromosome, which suggests that epigenetic factors modulate not only the length but also the rate of age-associated telomere shortening in human cells in vivo. This is the first evidence to show a differential rate of telomere shortening between and within homologous chromosomes in any species. Our results are also consistent with a causative role of telomere shortening in the well-documented X-chromosome aneuploidy in aging humans.

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