Telomerase, the reverse transcriptase that maintains telomere DNA, is usually undetectable in most adult tissues but is positive in embryonic tissues and in cancers. In addition, freshly islolated or in vitro-activated lymphocytes were shown to express high levels of telomerase activity, although its expression in myeloid cells including dendritic cells (DCs) is largely unknown. Here, we investigated telomerase activity during the differentiation and maturation process of DCs. In vitro culture of bone marrow (BM) cells with granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor and interleukin-4 induced a dramatic increase of telomerase activity accompanied with their differentiation into DCs. Furthermore, stimulation with microbial components such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which triggers maturation of DCs, augmented the activity. In vivo responses of telomerase activity were also observed in splenic DCs by injection of LPS intraperitoneally. It is interesting that in old mice, telomerase activity of splenic DCs was significantly higher than young mice but rather decreased after LPS stimulation. By measuring expression of cell-surface activation markers, splenic DCs of old mice responded poorly to LPS stimulation. Such poor responses to LPS were also observed in BM-derived DCs. These different features of DCs between young and old mice may contribute to a pathogenesis to microbial infections.