Changes in telomere length with aging in human neurons and glial cells revealed by quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis

Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2018 Oct;18(10):1507-1512. doi: 10.1111/ggi.13500. Epub 2018 Aug 10.


Aim: The telomere is a structure present at the ends of chromosomes, and is known to shorten with aging and successive rounds of cell division. However, very little is known about telomere attrition in post-mitotic cells, such as neurons.

Methods: Using our originally developed quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization method, we analyzed age-dependent alterations of telomere length in three types of cells in the human cerebrum: neurons and glial cells in both the gray and white matter.

Results: In adults, telomeres were significantly longer in neurons than in glial cells, whereas in infants, telomere lengths did not differ among the three cell types. No aging-related telomere attrition was evident in neurons. However, the telomeres of glial cells were shorter in older individuals than in younger individuals, and attrition was more rapid in the white matter than in the gray matter.

Conclusions: The present results suggest that the telomeres of neurons remain stable throughout life, whereas telomeres in white matter glial cells become significantly shorter with age. Examination of adults showed no significant correlation between telomere length and age in the three cell types. Although the present study was cross-sectional, the results suggest that telomere shortening before adolescence contributes to the significant decrease of telomere length in white matter glial cells. The present findings in normal cerebral tissues will be informative for future studies of telomere stability in the diseased brain. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2018; 18: 1507-1512.

Keywords: cerebrum; glia; neuron; quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization; telomere.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Neuroglia / pathology*
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Telomere / pathology*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques