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Haematologica. 2012 May;97(5):743-50. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2011.053983. Epub 2011 Dec 1.

Abnormal telomere shortening of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and granulocytes in patients with chronic idiopathic neutropenia.

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  • 1Department of Hematology, University of Crete School of Medicine, Heraklion, Greece.



Chronic idiopathic neutropenia is characterized by immune-mediated suppression of neutrophil production. Because patients with immune-mediated bone marrow failure syndromes display age-inappropriate telomere shortening in leukocytes, we investigated telomere lengths in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and granulocytes of patients with chronic idiopathic neutropenia.


We studied 37 patients with chronic idiopathic neutropenia and 68 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Relative telomere length and telomerase reverse transcriptase expression were assessed by a quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction. Telomerase activity was determined by a polymerase chain reaction-based immunoassay.


The mean relative telomere values of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and granulocytes were significantly lower in patients compared to controls, and significantly lower than expected on the basis of the age-adjusted healthy control distribution. The difference in the relative telomere lengths between patients and controls in both peripheral blood mononuclear cells and granulocytes was prominent in those under the age of 50 years. Contrary to the peripheral blood mononuclear cells, in which an inverse correlation was observed between relative telomere values and age, no significant correlation was noted between granulocyte telomere values and patient age. A significant correlation was observed between individual relative telomere values and absolute neutrophil counts. There was no difference in expression of telomerase reverse transcriptase in peripheral blood mononuclear cells between patients and controls but telomerase activity was identified at a significantly higher frequency in controls than in patients. No correlation was found between telomerase activity or telomerase reverse transcriptase expression and relative telomere lengths of peripheral blood mononuclear cells.


Patients with chronic idiopathic neutropenia display age-inappropriate telomere shortening of peripheral blood cells and low telomerase activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. A compensatory increased proliferation of bone marrow hematopoietic progenitor cells in association with lymphocyte replicative exhaustion probably account for these abnormalities.

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