Dynamics of telomere erosion in transformed and non-transformed avian cells in vitro

S. E. Swanberg, M. E. Delany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Although vertebrate telomeres are highly conserved, telomere dynamics and telomerase profiles vary among species. The objective of the present study was to examine telomerase activity and telomere length profiles of transformed and non-transformed avian cells in vitro. Non-transformed chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEFs) showed little or no telomerase activity from the earliest passages through senescence. Unexpectedly, a single culture of particularly long-lived senescent CEFs showed telomerase activity after over 250 days in culture. Transformed avian lines (six chicken, two quail and one turkey) and tumor samples (two chicken) exhibited telomerase activity. Telomere length profiles of non-transformed CEF cultures derived from individual embryos of an inbred line (UCD 003) exhibited cycles of shortening and lengthening with a substantial net loss of telomeric DNA by senescence. The telomere length profiles of several transformed cell lines resembled telomere length profiles of senescent CEFs in that they exhibited little of the typical smear of terminal restriction fragments (TRFs) suggesting that these transformed cells may possess a reduced amount of telomeric DNA. These results show that avian telomerase activity profiles are consistent with the telomerase activity profiles of human primary and transformed cells. Further, monitoring of telomere lengths of primary cells provides evidence for a dynamic series of changes over the lifespan of any specific cell culture ultimately resulting in net telomeric DNA loss by senescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-325
Number of pages8
JournalCytogenetic and Genome Research
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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