Differentiation rather than aging of muscle stem cells abolishes their telomerase activity.

Biotechnol Prog. 2009 Jul-Aug;25(4):1130-7.

Differentiation rather than aging of muscle stem cells abolishes their telomerase activity.

O’Connor MS, Carlson ME, Conboy IM.



A general feature of stem cells is the ability to routinely proliferate to build, maintain, and repair organ systems. Accordingly, embryonic and germline, as well as some adult stem cells, produce the telomerase enzyme at various levels of expression. Our results show that, while muscle is a largely postmitotic tissue, the muscle stem cells (satellite cells) that maintain this biological system throughout adult life do indeed display robust telomerase activity. Conversely, primary myoblasts (the immediate progeny of satellite cells) quickly and dramatically downregulate telomerase activity. This work thus suggests that satellite cells, and early transient myoblasts, may be more promising therapeutic candidates for regenerative medicine than traditionally utilized myoblast cultures. Muscle atrophy accompanies human aging, and satellite cells endogenous to aged muscle can be triggered to regenerate old tissue by exogenous molecular cues. Therefore, we also examined whether these aged muscle stem cells would produce tissue that is "young" with respect to telomere maintenance. Interestingly, this work shows that the telomerase activity in muscle stem cells is largely retained into old age wintin inbred "long" telomere mice and in wild-derived short telomere mouse strains, and that age-specific telomere shortening is undetectable in the old differentiated muscle fibers of either strain. Summarily, this work establishes that young and old muscle stem cells, but not necessarily their progeny, myoblasts, are likely to produce tissue with normal telomere maintenance when used in molecular and regenerative medicine approaches for tissue repair.