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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2000 Mar;32(3):385-90.

Telomerase activity in rat cardiac myocytes is age and gender dependent.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY 10595, USA.


Telomerase replaces telomeric repeat DNA lost during the cell cycle, restoring telomere length. This enzyme is present only during cell replication and its activity reflects the extent of proliferation. Whether cardiac myocytes are terminally differentiated cells is still a highly controversial issue, and the possibility of myocyte division is frequently rejected. On this basis, telomerase was measured in pure preparations of myocytes, isolated from rats throughout their lifespan. Fetal and neonatal rat myocytes were used as positive control cells. Contrary to expectation, the authors report that telomerase activity was detectable in pure preparations of young adult, fully mature adult, and senescent ventricular myocytes, defeating the dogma that this cell population is permanent and irreplaceable. Aging decreased 31% telomerase activity in male myocytes. An opposite effect occurred in female myocytes in which this enzyme increased 72%. This differential adaptation between the two genders in the rat model may be relevant to observations in humans; myocyte loss occurs in men as a function of age, whereas myocyte number is preserved in women. The greater growth potential of female myocytes may be critical for the longer lifespan and decreased incidence of heart failure in women.

Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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