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Aging Cell. 2003 Jun;2(3):151-7.

Modelling cellular senescence as a result of telomere state.

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SCMS, Gerontology, University of Newcastle, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 6BE, UK.


Telomeres in mammalian cells end in large duplex T loops. These loops protect the single-strand overhangs from degradation and/or interactions with signalling proteins. This protection is sometimes referred to as capping. At each cell division, telomeres shorten and there is a general consensus that telomere shortening triggers cell cycle exit. However, the exact mechanism by which telomere shortening causes cell cycle arrest is not known. Mathematical models of telomere shortening have been developed to help us understand the processes involved. Until now most models have assumed that the trigger for cell cycle arrest is the first telomere or a group of telomeres reaching a critically short length. However, there is evidence that cells stop cycling over a wide range of telomere lengths. This suggests that telomere length per se may not in fact be the trigger for cellular senescence. In this paper we develop a model which examines the hypothesis that uncapping of a telomere is the main trigger. By letting the probability of uncapping depend upon telomere length, we show that the hypothesized model provides a good fit to experimental data.

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