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Biochimie. 2008 Jan;90(1):24-32. Epub 2007 Sep 22.

Telomere dysfunction and stem cell ageing.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Medicine and Max-Planck-Research Group on Stem Aging, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Biochimie. 2008 May;90(5):835. Rudolph, Lenhard [corrected to Lenhard Rudolph, K].


Ageing is characterized by a decline in organ maintenance and repair. Adult stem cells contribute to tissue repair and organ maintenance. Thus it is conceivable that ageing is partly due to a decline of stem cell function. At molecular level, ageing is associated with an accumulation of damage affecting DNA, proteins, membranes, and organelles, as well as the formation of insoluble protein aggregates. Telomere shortening represents a cell intrinsic mechanism, which contributes to the accumulation of DNA damage during cellular ageing. Telomere dysfunction in response to critical telomere shortening induces DNA damage checkpoints that lead to cell cycle arrest and/or cell death. Checkpoint responses induced by telomere dysfunction have mostly been studied in somatic cells but there are emerging data on cell intrinsic checkpoints that impair the maintenance and function of adult stem cell in response to telomere dysfunction. Moreover, telomere dysfunction induces alterations in the stem cell environment that limit the function of adult stem cells. In this review we summarize our current knowledge on the role of telomere dysfunction in adult stem cell ageing.

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