Intrinsic limits on cellular proliferation in human somatic tissue serves as a tumor suppressor mechanism by restricting cell growth in aged cells with accrued pre-cancerous mutations. This is accompanied by the potential cost of restricting regenerative capacity and contributing to cellular and organismal aging. Emerging data support a model where telomere erosion controls proliferative boundaries through the progressive change of telomere structure from a protected state, through two distinct states of telomere deprotection. In this model telomeres facilitate a controlled permanent cell cycle arrest with a stable diploid genome during differentiation and may serve as an epigenetic sensor of general stress in DNA metabolism processes.
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