Loss of telomeric DNA during aging of normal and trisomy 21 human lymphocytes

Am J Hum Genet. 1993 Apr;52(4):661-7.


The telomere hypothesis of cellular aging proposes that loss of telomeric DNA (TTAGGG) from human chromosomes may ultimately cause cell-cycle exit during replicative senescence. Since lymphocytes have a limited replicative capacity and since blood cells were previously shown to lose telomeric DNA during aging in vivo, we wished to determine: (a) whether accelerated telomere loss is associated with the premature immunosenescence of lymphocytes in individuals with Down syndrome (DS) and (b) whether telomeric DNA is also lost during aging of lymphocytes in vitro. To investigate the effects of aging and trisomy 21 on telomere loss in vivo, genomic DNA was isolated from peripheral blood lymphocytes of 140 individuals (age 0-107 years), including 21 DS patients (age 0-45 years). Digestion with restriction enzymes HinfI and RsaI generated terminal restriction fragments (TRFs), which were detected by Southern analysis using a telomere-specific probe (32P-(C3TA2)3). The rate of telomere loss was calculated from the decrease in mean TRF length, as a function of donor age. DS patients showed a significantly higher rate of telomere loss with donor age (133 +/- 15 bp/year) compared with age-matched controls (41 +/- 7.7 bp/year) (P < .0005), suggesting that accelerated telomere loss is a biomarker of premature immunosenescence of DS patients and that it may play a role in this process. Telomere loss during aging in vitro was calculated for lymphocytes from four normal individuals, grown in culture for 10-30 population doublings. The rate of telomere loss was approximately 120 bp/cell doubling, comparable to that seen in other somatic cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Cellular Senescence / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA / analysis
  • DNA Replication
  • Down Syndrome / genetics*
  • Down Syndrome / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Deletion
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Telomere / physiology*


  • DNA