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J Biol Chem. 2004 Apr 23;279(17):17826-33. Epub 2004 Feb 12.

Stochastic variation in telomere shortening rate causes heterogeneity of human fibroblast replicative life span.

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1
Henry Wellcome Biogerontology Laboratory, School of Clinical Medical Sciences, University of Newcastle, General Hospital, Newcastle NE4 6BE, United Kingdom.

Abstract

The replicative life span of human fibroblasts is heterogeneous, with a fraction of cells senescing at every population doubling. To find out whether this heterogeneity is due to premature senescence, i.e. driven by a nontelomeric mechanism, fibroblasts with a senescent phenotype were isolated from growing cultures and clones by flow cytometry. These senescent cells had shorter telomeres than their cycling counterparts at all population doubling levels and both in mass cultures and in individual subclones, indicating heterogeneity in the rate of telomere shortening. Ectopic expression of telomerase stabilized telomere length in the majority of cells and rescued them from early senescence, suggesting a causal role of telomere shortening. Under standard cell culture conditions, there was a minor fraction of cells that showed a senescent phenotype and short telomeres despite active telomerase. This fraction increased under chronic mild oxidative stress, which is known to accelerate telomere shortening. It is possible that even high telomerase activity cannot fully compensate for telomere shortening in all cells. The data show that heterogeneity of the human fibroblast replicative life span can be caused by significant stochastic cell-to-cell variation in telomere shortening.

PMID:
14963037
DOI:
10.1074/jbc.M311980200
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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