Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Aging is a major factor predisposing for multiple diseases. Telomeres at the ends of chromosomes protect the integrity of chromosomal DNA. A specialized six-protein complex termed shelterin protects the telomere from unwanted interaction with DNA damage pathways. The aim of our study was to evaluate the integrity of telomeres and the stability of telomere protection during aging in endothelial cells (EC). We describe that aging EC can be characterized by an increased cell size (40%, p=0.02) and increased expression of PAI 1 (4 fold, p=0.02), MCP1 (10 fold, p=0.001) and GMCSF (15 fold, p=0.004). Telomeric state in aging cells is defined by an increased telomere oxidation (27%, p=0.01), reduced telomere length (62%, p=0.02), and increased DNA damage foci formation (5% in young EC versus 16% in aged EC, p=0.003). This telomeric dysfunction is accompanied by a reduction in the shelterin component TRF1 (33% mRNA, p=0.001; 24% protein, p=0.007). Overexpression of TRF1 in aging EC reduced telomere-associated DNA damage foci to 5% (p=0.02) and reduced expression levels of MCP1 (18% reduction, p=0.008). Aged EC have increased telomere damage and an intrinsic loss of telomere protection. Reestablishing telomere integrity could therefore be a target for rejuvenating endothelial cell function.