, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 101-111

Analysis of telomere length and telomerase activity in tree species of various life-spans, and with age in the bristlecone pine Pinus longaeva

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Abstract

Normal somatic cells have a finite replicative capacity. With each cell division, telomeres (the physical ends of linear chromosomes) progressively shorten until they reach a critical length, at which point the cells enter replicative senescence. Some cells maintain telomere length by the action of the telomerase enzyme. The bristlecone pine, Pinus longaeva, is the oldest known living eukaryotic organism, with the oldest on record turning 4770 years old in 2005. To determine what changes occur, if any, in telomere length and telomerase activity with age, and what roles, if any, telomere length and telomerase activity may play in contributing to the increased life-span and longevity of P. longaeva with age, as well as in other tree species of various life-spans, we undertook a detailed investigation of telomere length and telomerase activity in such trees. The results from this study support the hypothesis that both increased telomere length and telomerase activity may directly/indirectly contribute to the increased life-span and longevity evident in long-lived pine trees (2000–5000 year life-spans) compared to medium-lived (400–500 year life-span) and short-lived (100–200 year life-span) pine trees, as well as in P. longaeva with age.