Structural stability and chromosome-specific telomere length is governed by cis-acting determinants in humans

Hum Mol Genet. 2006 Mar 1;15(5):725-33. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddi486. Epub 2006 Jan 18.


Single telomere length analysis (STELA) of the XpYp telomere has revealed extensive allelic variation and ultra-short telomeres in senescent cells. Superimposed on end-replication losses are additional mutational events that result in large-scale changes in telomere length. In order to establish if the dynamics of the XpYp telomere are typical of human telomeres, here we describe an analysis using STELA of the telomeres of 2p, 11q, 12q, 17p and XpYp. The dynamics of telomere loss (erosion rates and stochastic length changes) was conserved among 2p, 11q, 12q and XpYp within the same cell strains and was dependent on the replicative kinetics of the cells in culture. However, of the telomeres analysed, the telomere of 17p was more stable with a striking paucity of large-scale length changes, and exhibited the shortest recorded allelic distribution (300 bp) in senescent cells and displayed a general, but not absolute, trend towards being the shortest telomere. Ectopic over-expression of hTERT homogenized both allelic and chromosome-specific telomeric distributions. However, telomerase-expressing cancer cells displayed both allelic variation and chromosome-specific telomere length, with 17p displaying the shortest allelic telomere length. Although other telomeres in the genome may share the properties of 17p, these data suggest that physiological levels of telomerase allow differential telomere length regulation and indicate the presence of cis-acting factors that govern both telomeric stability and chromosome-specific telomere length in the presence of telomerase.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Chromosomes, Human / genetics*
  • Clone Cells
  • DNA Primers
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Telomerase / metabolism
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere / metabolism


  • DNA Primers
  • Telomerase