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Immunology. 2002 Apr;105(4):458-65.

Age-related telomere length dynamics in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of healthy cynomolgus monkeys measured by Flow FISH.

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Tsukuba Primate Centre, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, 1 Hachimandai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0843, Japan.


Telomere length is a good biomarker to study the cellular senescence as well as aging of an organism, because it regulates the replicative capacity of vertebrate somatic cells. To demonstrate age-related telomere length dynamics in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of the cynomolgus monkey, we introduced a novel method of measuring telomere length by fluorescence in situ hybridization with a Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) labelled probe and flow cytometry (Flow FISH). A highly significant correlation was observed between the intensity of telomere-specific fluorescence by Flow FISH and telomere length by Southern blot analysis (R = 0.923, n = 22). The intensity of telomere fluorescence in PBMC significantly decreased with age in 55 monkeys aged from 0 to 34 years and this decrease corresponded to the loss of 62.7 base pairs per year (R = - 0.52, P < 0.00004). We also analysed the expression of naive cell-associated markers, CD28, CD62L and CD45RA/CD62L in T lymphocytes of 47 cynomolgus monkeys. An age-related increase in the CD28- subset was observed in CD8+ T lymphocytes in monkeys less than 11 years old and in CD4+ T lymphocytes in monkeys over 23 years old, respectively. The percentage of CD62L+ subsets was significantly decreased with age in both CD4+ (R = - 0.55) and CD8+ T lymphocytes (R = - 0.73). From the comparison of telomere length among PBMC, CD62L+ and CD62L- T lymphocytes, it was clearly evident that loss of naive subsets results in the shortening of telomere length in vivo. These results show that this method can be applicable to studying the turnover and precursor-progeny of PBMC in cynomolgus monkeys as an animal model of aging.

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