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Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 1998 Sep;105(2):138-44.

Comparison of chromosome telomere integrity in multiple tissues from subjects at different ages.

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Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-2578, USA.


Telomere DNA, at the ends of each chromosome, is conserved in nature and required for chromosome replication and stability. Reduction in telomere length has been observed in several malignancies as well as in leukocytes from healthy persons with advancing age. There is a paucity of data regarding telomere length and the effects of in vivo aging in different tissues. These data could be helpful in interpreting telomere length and understanding the role of telomere integrity and telomerase activity in malignant cells. We report telomeric DNA integrity studies of blood and skin collected from eight Caucasians of both sexes representing each decade of life from the fetus to 72 years of age without exposure to chemotherapy or radiation. In addition, telomeric data from 15 other tissues from the fetus and 8 other tissues from the 72-year-old male were examined. No significant differences were found in the shortest telomere size, the average telomere size, or telomere size variation between blood and skin from subjects at different ages. The average telomere size was 11.7 +/- 2.2 kb for blood and 12.8 +/- 3.7 for skin in all subjects studied. The shortest telomere length was 5.4 +/- 1.9 kb for blood and 4.3 +/- 0.9 kb for skin. Significant differences (P < 0.001) were found in the overall length of the DNA hybridization signal representing the shortest telomere size and the length of the DNA peak migration hybridization signal representing variation in telomere size between the 20-week fetus and the 72-year-old male. The 72-year-old male showed the shortest telomeres and the most variation (heterogeneity) in telomere size for all tissues studied, but the greatest differences were observed in blood compared with other tissues (e.g., average telomere length was 12.2 kb in the fetus and 7.2 kb in the 72-year-old male). The size of the telomere was negatively correlated with age for all tissues studied.

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