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Free Radic Biol Med. 1998 Apr;24(6):885-93.

Accelerated telomere shortening in fibroblasts after extended periods of confluency.

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Institute of Pathology, Charité, Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany.


Telomere length in MRC-5 fibroblasts remains constant if the cells are proliferation-inhibited for up to 3 months by confluency. However, the apparent frequency of single-stranded sites in telomeres, measured as sensitivity to degradation by S1 nuclease, increases about fourfold during this extended inhibition of proliferation. After release of the cells, the frequency of telomeric single-stranded sites decreases to control values, and the telomere shortening rate increases about threefold as compared to controls proliferating without inhibition. This acceleration is transitory, the telomere shortening rate decreases to control values after about two population doublings after release. Finally, temporarily arrested fibroblast populations senesce at a lower cumulative population doubling level, but at about the same telomere length, as continuously proliferating controls. The data suggest that metabolic time-dependent single-strand degradation is a major cause of telomere shortening. They support the idea that telomere shortening plays an important role in triggering cellular senescence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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