Genome Reorganization During Aging of Dividing Cells

  • A. Macieira-Coelho
  • F. Puvion-Dutilleul
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 190)


The study of the effect of low dose rate ionizing radiation on the long-term proliferation of fibroblasts led to the observation that radiation accentuated the growth potential of the cells, favoring events which normally take place during division. These events could be related to the genome reorganization taking place during division. Hence, it was hypothesized (Macieira-Coelho, 1979; Macieira-Coelho, 1980; Macieira-Coelho, 1981) that the long-term proliferation of fibroblasts depends upon the potential for reorganization of the genome, the latter being a self-limiting process. At each division residual quantitative and qualitative changes would accumulate in chromatin, limiting the long-term potential for further rearrangements.

The hypothesis was checked looking for quantitative and qualitative changes in DNA through the in vitro lifespan of human fibroblast populations.

It was found that at each population doubling in 20% of the cells there is unequal distribution of DNA between sister cells. Results show that this could be due to errors in chromosome assembly and segregation, to loss of DNA, to errors during semi-conservative DNA synthesis and to multiple rounds of DNA replication at a single origin.

An increased alkali- and thermo-lability of chromatin was found during in vitro aging. At the ultrastructural level after mild decondensation, chromatin fibers were spaced and shorter. After Miller’s spreading, most of the chromatin of old cells had lost the nucleosome organization and was fragmented. These chromatin changes became apparent only towards the end of the life span of human embryonic fibroblasts but were already present in a significant fraction of low population doubling level (PDL) fibroblasts from human adults.

Almost all cells of low-PDL fibroblasts from the Werner syndrome presented these chromatin changes. In addition, short, unbeaded DNA fragments could be seen in these fibroblasts, occasionally forming circles; they could correspond to transposable elements which detach during the division cycle and fail to reintegrate into chromosomes because of the age-related chromatin structural changes.


Daughter Cell Chromatin Fiber Werner Syndrome Population Doubling Level Sister Cell 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Macieira-Coelho
    • 1
  • F. Puvion-Dutilleul
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut de Cancerologie et d’ImmunogenetiqueINSERMFrance
  2. 2.Institut de Recherches Scientifiques sur le CancerCNRSVillejuif CedexFrance

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