Decrease of telomere length in thyroid adenomas without telomerase activity.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Dec; 83(12):4368-72.JC
In somatic cells, telomeres shorten with population doubling, thus limiting their capacity to divide. Telomerase, which synthesizes telomeric repeats, can compensate for such shortening. Telomerase activity is known to be absent from most somatic differentiated cells but is present in germline cells, immortal cell lines, or a large majority of malignant tumors. Autonomous thyroid adenomas are benign tumors composed of highly differentiated cells characterized by TSH-independent function and growth. Telomere length and telomerase activity were measured in autonomous and hypofunctioning adenomas and their surrounding tissues. A significant decrease of 3.8+/-1.0 kilobases (kb) was observed in the length of the terminal restriction fragments (TRF) in 12 autonomous adenomas (8.6+/-1.1 kb), compared with the TRF length of their surrounding tissues (12.4+/-1.6 kb). The same kind of decrease, 3.5+/-1.2 kb, was also observed in 16 hypofunctioning adenomas (12.3+/-1.7 kb in surrounding tissue and 8.8+/-1.6 kb in the adenomas). No telomerase activity was detected either in the 12 autonomous adenomas studied or in most of the quiescent tissues (10 of 12). Most of the hypofunctioning adenomas tested (15 of 16) did not display telomerase activity. These results suggest that the cells have undergone a higher number of cell divisions in the adenomas than in the surrounding tissue. Moreover, there is a larger spread of the TRF length distribution in autonomous adenomas than in the collateral tissue. This could reflect the heterogeneity in proliferation status of the cells in the nodule, some of which have reached the end of their life span, whereas others are still proliferating (but with no malignant potential for the autonomous adenomas). In conclusion, benign adenomas exhibit a shorter and more variable telomere length than the normal collateral quiescent tissue, with no telomerase activity to compensate this loss in telomere length.