© 2015 International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus.
Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences (TTAGGG)n located at the ends of chromosomes that function to preserve chromosomal integrity and prevent terminal end-to-end fusions. Telomere loss or dysfunction results in breakage-bridge-fusion cycles, aneuploidy, gene amplification and chromosomal rearrangements, which can lead to genomic instability and promote carcinogenesis. Evaluating the hypothesis that changes in telomeres contribute to the development of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) and to determine whether there are differences between young and old patients, we compared the three-dimensional (3D) nuclear telomere architecture in ESCC tumor cells with that of normal epithelial cells obtained from the same patient. Patients were equally divided by age into two groups, one comprising those less than 45 years of age and the other consisting of those over 80 years of age. Tumor and normal epithelial cells located at least 10 cm from the border of the tumor were biopsied in ESCC patients. Hematoxylin and eosin staining was performed for each sample to confirm and identify the cancer and normal epithelial cells. This study was based on quantitative 3D fluorescence in situ hybridization (Q-FISH), 3D imaging and 3D analysis of paraffin-embedded slides. The 3D telomere architecture data were computer analyzed using 100 nuclei per slide. The following were the main parameters compared: the number of signals (number of telomeres), signal intensity (telomere length), number of telomere aggregates, and nuclear volume. Tumor and normal epithelial samples from 16 patients were compared. The normal epithelial cells had more telomere signals and higher intensities than the tumor cells, with P-values of P < 0.0001 and P = 0.0078, respectively. There were no statistically significant differences in the numbers of telomere aggregates or the nuclear volumes between the tumor and normal epithelial cells. Secondary analyses examined the effects of age on 3D telomere architecture and found no statistically significant differences in any parameter tested between the young and old patients in either the tumor or epithelial cells. The 3D nuclear telomeric signature was able to detect differences in telomere architecture between the ESCC and normal epithelial tissues. However, there were no differences observed between the young and old patients.