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Mech Ageing Dev. 2005 Jun-Jul;126(6-7):685-91.

Lagomorphs (rabbits, pikas and hares) do not use telomere-directed replicative aging in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 75390-9039, USA.


Telomere shortening is used for replicative aging in primates and ungulates but not rodents. We examined telomere biology in rabbits to expand the comparative biology of telomere-directed replicative senescence within mammals. The order Lagomorpha consists of two families; Leporidae and Ochotonidae. We examined telomere biology in species representing three leporid genera (European White Rabbit, Black-tailed Jack Rabbit, and Swamp Rabbit) and the monotypic ochotonid genus (North American Pika). Of the leporids one species was a laboratory strain and the others were wild caught. The leporids neither exhibited cellular senescence after sustained periods in culture nor displayed detectable telomerase activity. Continued culture was possible because of their extremely long telomeric arrays. Immunofluorescence showed robust telomere signals at chromosome ends and significant internal chromosomal staining in some instances. Pika was unique in displaying endogenous telomerase activity throughout time in culture. These results show that it is unlikely that lagomorphs use telomere shortening and replicative senescence as a tumor protective mechanism.

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