Telomeres shorten during ageing of human fibroblasts

Calvin B. Harley, A. Bruce Futcher, Carol W. Greider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4345 Scopus citations


THE terminus of a DNA helix has been called its Achilles' heel1. Thus to prevent possible incomplete replication2 and instability3,4 of the termini of linear DNA, eukaryotic chromosomes end in characteristic repetitive DNA sequences within specialized structures called telomeres5. In immortal cells, loss of telomeric DNA due to degradation or incomplete replication is apparently balanced by telomere elongation6-10, which may involve de novo synthesis of additional repeats by a novel DNA polymerase called telomerase11-14. Such a polymerase has been recently detected in HeLa cells15. It has been proposed that the finite doubling capacity of normal mammalian cells is due to a loss of telomeric DNA and eventual deletion of essential sequences1,16,17. In yeast, the est1 mutation causes gradual loss of telomeric DNA and eventual cell death mimicking senescence in higher eukaryotic cells17. Here, we show that the amount and length of telomeric DNA in human fibroblasts does in fact decrease as a function of serial passage during ageing in vitro and possibly in vivo. It is not known whether this loss of DNA has a causal role in senescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-460
Number of pages3
Issue number6274
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Telomeres shorten during ageing of human fibroblasts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this