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Open Access Research article

Association of telomere instability with senescence of porcine cells

Guangzhen Ji1, Kai Liu1, Maja Okuka2, Na Liu1 and Lin Liu12*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Medicinal Chemical Biology; College of Life Sciences, Nankai University, Tianjin, 300071, China

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, FL, 33612, USA

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BMC Cell Biology 2012, 13:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-13-36

Published: 15 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Telomeres are essential for the maintenance of genomic stability, and telomere dysfunction leads to cellular senescence, carcinogenesis, aging, and age-related diseases in humans. Pigs have become increasingly important large animal models for preclinical tests and study of human diseases, and also may provide xeno-transplantation sources. Thus far, Southern blot analysis has been used to estimate average telomere lengths in pigs. Telomere quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization (Q-FISH), however, can reveal status of individual telomeres in fewer cells, in addition to quantifying relative telomere lengths, and has been commonly used for study of telomere function of mouse and human cells. We attempted to investigate telomere characteristics of porcine cells using telomere Q-FISH method.

Results

The average telomere lengths in porcine cells measured by Q-FISH correlated with those of quantitative real-time PCR method (qPCR) or telomere restriction fragments (TRFs) by Southern blot analysis. Unexpectedly, we found that porcine cells exhibited high incidence of telomere doublets revealed by Q-FISH method, coincided with increased frequency of cellular senescence. Also, telomeres shortened during subculture of various porcine primary cell types. Interestingly, the high frequency of porcine telomere doublets and telomere loss was associated with telomere dysfunction-induced foci (TIFs). The incidence of TIFs, telomere doublets and telomere loss increased with telomere shortening and cellular senescence during subculture.

Conclusion

Q-FISH method using telomere PNA probe is particularly useful for characterization of porcine telomeres. Porcine cells exhibit high frequency of telomere instability and are susceptible to telomere damage and replicative senescence.

Keywords:
Telomere; Q-FISH; qPCR; Telomere doublets; Telomere dysfunction; Senescence