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Exp Gerontol. 2007 Jul;42(7):610-8. Epub 2007 Mar 27.

Telomerase activity is maintained throughout the lifespan of long-lived birds.

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Department of Biology, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022, USA.


Telomerase is an enzyme capable of elongating telomeres, the caps at the ends of chromosomes associated with aging, lifespan and survival. We investigated tissue-level variation in telomerase across different ages in four bird species that vary widely in their life history. Telomerase activity in bone marrow may be associated with the rate of erythrocyte telomere shortening; birds with lower rates of telomere shortening and longer lifespans have higher bone marrow telomerase activity throughout life. Telomerase activity in all of the species appears to be tightly correlated with the proliferative potential of specific organs, and it is also highest in the hatchling age-class, when the proliferative demands of most organs are the highest. This study offers an alternative view to the commonly held hypothesis that telomerase activity is down-regulated in all post-mitotic somatic tissues in long-lived organisms as a tumor-protective mechanism. This highlights the need for more comparative analyses of telomerase, lifespan and the incidence of tumor formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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