To determine how cellular aging is conserved among primates, we analyzed the replicative potential and telomere shortening in skin fibroblasts of anthropoids and prosimians. The average telomere length of the New World primates Ateles geoffroyi (spider monkey) and Saimiri sciureus (squirrel monkey) and the Old World primates Macaca mulatta (rhesus monkey), Pongo pygmaeus (orangutan), and Pan paniscus (pigmy chimpanzee) ranged from 4 to 16 kb. We found that telomere shortening limits the replicative capacity of anthropoid fibroblasts and that the expression of human telomerase produced telomere elongation and the extension of their in vitro life span. In contrast the prosimian Lemur catta (ring-tailed lemur) had both long and short telomeres and telomere shortening did not provide an absolute barrier to immortalization. Following a transient growth arrest a subset of cells showing a reduced number of chromosomes overgrew the cultures without activation of telomerase. Here we show that the presence of continuous TTAGGG repeats at telomeres and rigorous control of replicative aging by telomere shortening appear to be conserved among anthropoid primates but is less effective in prosimian lemurs.
(c)2001 Elsevier Science.