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Analysis of the age of Panax ginseng based on telomere length and telomerase activity.

Authors: Jiabei J. Liang, Chao C. Jiang, Huasheng H. Peng, Qinghua Q. Shi, Xiang X. Guo, Yuan Y. Yuan, Luqi L. Huang
Published: 01/23/2015, Scientific reports


Ginseng, which is the root of Panax ginseng (Araliaceae), has been used in Oriental medicine as a stimulant and dietary supplement for more than 7,000 years. Older ginseng plants are substantially more medically potent, but ginseng age can be simulated using unscrupulous cultivation practices. Telomeres progressively shorten with each cell division until they reach a critical length, at which point cells enter replicative senescence. However, in some cells, telomerase maintains telomere length. In this study, to determine whether telomere length reflects ginseng age and which tissue is best for such an analysis, we examined telomerase activity in the main roots, leaves, stems, secondary roots and seeds of ginseng plants of known age. Telomere length in the main root (approximately 1 cm below the rhizome) was found to be the best indicator of age. Telomeric terminal restriction fragment (TRF) lengths, which are indicators of telomere length, were determined for the main roots of plants of different ages through Southern hybridization analysis. Telomere length was shown to be positively correlated with plant age, and a simple mathematical model was formulated to describe the relationship between telomere length and age for P. ginseng.

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