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Curr Opin Lipidol. 2002 Oct;13(5):537-43.

Role of telomere in endothelial dysfunction in atherosclerosis.

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Department of Cardiovascular Science and Medicine, Chiba University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-8-1 Inohana, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8670, Japan.



Telomeres consist of repeats of G-rich sequence at the end of chromosomes. These DNA repeats are synthesized by enzymatic activity associated with an RNA protein complex called telomerase. In most somatic cells, telomerase activity is insufficient, and telomere length decreases with increasing cell division, resulting in an irreversible cell growth arrest, termed cellular senescence. Cellular senescence is associated with an array of phenotypic changes suggestive of aging. Until recently, cellular senescence has largely been studied as an in-vitro phenomenon; however, there is accumulating evidence that indicates a critical role of telomere function in the pathogenesis of human atherosclerosis. This review attempts to summarize recent work in vascular biology that supports the "telomere hypothesis". We discuss the possible relevance of telomere function to vascular aging and the therapeutic potential of telomere manipulation.


It has been reported that many of the changes in senescent vascular cell behavior are consistent with known changes seen in age-related vascular diseases. Introduction of telomere malfunction has been shown to lead to endothelial dysfunction that promotes atherogenesis, whereas telomere lengthening extends cell lifespan and protects against endothelial dysfunction associated with senescence. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that telomere attrition and cellular senescence occur in the blood vessels and are associated with human atherosclerosis.


Recent findings suggest that vascular cell senescence induced by telomere shortening may contribute to atherogenesis and may provide insights into a novel treatment of antisenescence to prevent atherosclerosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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