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Cell Cycle. 2007 Oct 15;6(20):2486-94. Epub 2007 Jul 26.

Telomere length profiles in humans: all ends are not equal.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the Cell, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Faculty of Medicine Lyon-South, Lyon, France.


Telomere length is an important parameter of telomere function since it determines number of aspects controlling chromosome stability and cell division. Since telomeres shorten with age in humans and premature aging syndromes are often associated with the presence of short telomeres, it has been proposed that telomere length is also an important parameter for organismal aging. How mean telomere lengths are determined in humans remains puzzling, but it is clear that genetic and epigenetic factors appear to be of great importance. Experimental evidence obtained from many different organisms has provided the basis for a widely accepted counting mechanism based on a negative feedback loop for telomerase activity at the level of individual telomeres. In addition, recent studies in both normal and pathological contexts point to the existence of chromosome-specific mechanisms of telomere length regulation determining a telomere length profile, which is inherited and maintained throughout life. In this review, we recapitulate the available data, propose a synthetic view of telomere length control mechanisms in humans and suggest new approaches to test current hypotheses.

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