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Epigenetics. 2011 Jan;6(1):63-75. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.1.13390. Epub 2011 Jan 1.

Reprogramming of telomeric regions during the generation of human induced pluripotent stem cells and subsequent differentiation into fibroblast-like derivatives.

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Molecular Medicine Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute, Rambam Health Care Campus and Rappaport, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.


Human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells provide therapeutic promises, as well as a potent in vitro model for studying biological processes which take place during human embryonic development and subsequent differentiation in normal and disease states. The epigenetic characteristics of iPS cells are reprogrammed to the embryonic state at which they acquire pluripotency. In addition, telomeres in hiPS cell must elongate sufficiently to provide the necessary replicative potential. Recent studies have demonstrated that the epigenetic characteristics of telomeric and subtelomeric regions are pivotal in regulating telomere length. Here we study telomere length, subtelomeric DNA methylation and telomeric-repeat-containing RNA (TERRA) expression in several hiPS cell clones derived from normal neonatal foreskin fibroblasts. We find that telomeres lengthen significantly in hiPS cells in comparison to the parental fibroblast source, and progressively shorten after differentiation back into fibroblast-like cells, concomitantly with telomerase activation and down-regulation, respectively. Subtelomeres in hiPS cells were found to be generally hypermethylated in comparison to the parental source. However bisulfite analysis revealed that at several subtelomeres examined, methylation levels differed between hiPS clones and that both de novo methylation and demethylation processes occurred during telomere reprogramming. Notably, although subtelomeres were in general very highly methylated, TERRA levels were elevated in hiPS cells, albeit to different degrees in the various clones. TERRA elevation may reflect enhanced stability or impaired degradation in hiPS cells, and/or alternatively, increased transcription from the hypomethylated subtelomeres. We suggest that TERRA may play a role in regulation of appropriate telomere function and length in hiPS cells.

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