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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 1997 Oct;29(10):2717-24.

Telomerase activity during cardiac development.

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Laboratory of Molecular Cardiology, Departments of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1L5, Canada.


Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein involved in maintaining telomere length in stem cells and immortal and actively dividing cells. We report here for the first time that telomerase is developmentally regulated in the normal rat heart. When we compared rat hearts at different developmental stages, we found that telomerase activity decreased to 20% of the fetal level by 5 days after birth, and was undetectable by 20 days after birth. These results indicate that the rate of cardiomyocyte proliferation decreases dramatically soon after birth in the rat. Of several non-cardiac tissues examined, telomerase activity was highest in fetal and adult rat liver, suggesting that there is an active mechanism for maintaining long telomeres in liver tissue at all stages. The disappearance of telomerase activity in the rat heart at the time that cardiomyocytes become terminally differentiated suggests that telomerase downregulation is important in the permanent withdrawal of cardiomyocytes from the cell cycle.

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