Telomeres and replicative senescence: Is it only length that counts?

Cancer Lett. 2001 Jul 26;168(2):111-6. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3835(01)00546-8.


Telomeres are well established as a major 'replicometer', counting the population doublings in primary human cell cultures and ultimately triggering replicative senescence. However, neither is the pace of this biological clock inert, nor is there a fixed threshold telomere length acting as the universal trigger of replicative senescence. The available data suggest that opening of the telomeric loop and unscheduled exposure of the single-stranded G-rich telomeric overhang might act like a semaphore to signal senescent cell cycle arrest. Short telomere length, telomeric single-strand breaks, low levels of loop-stabilizing proteins, or other factors may trigger this opening of the loop. Thus, both telomere shortening and the ultimate signalling into senescence are able to integrate different environmental and genetic factors, especially oxidative stress-mediated damage, which might otherwise become a thread to genomic stability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Telomere / physiology*