Telomerase activity concentrates in the mitotically active segments of human hair follicles

Ruben D. Ramirez, Woodring E. Wright, Jerry W. Shay, R. Stan Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme capable of adding hexanucleotide repeats onto the ends of linear chromosomal DNA. Whereas normal somatic cells with a limited replicative capacity fail to express telomerase activity, most immortal eukaryotic cells do. Cells of renewal tissues (e.g., skin, intestine, blood) require an extensive proliferative capacity. Some cells in such renewal tissues also express telomerase activity, most likely to prevent rapid erosion of their telomeres during cell proliferation. In this study, we measured the levels of telomerase activity in dissected compartments of the human hair follicle: hair shaft, gland-containing fragment, upper intermediate fragment (where it is thought undifferentiated stem cells reside), lower intermediate fragment, and in the bulb-containing fragment (an area with high mitotic activity containing a more differentiated pool of keratinocytes). In anagen follicles, high levels of telomerase activity were found almost exclusively in the bulb-containing fragment of the follicles, with low levels of telomerase in the bulge area (intermediate fragments) and gland-containing fragment. In comparison, catagen follicles had low levels of telomerase activity in the bulb-containing fragments as well as in other compartments. Such observations indicate that, in anagen hair follicles, the fragments containing cells actively dividing (e.g., transient amplifying cells) express telomerase activity, whereas fragments containing cells with low mitotic activity, for example, quiescent stem cells, express low levels of telomerase activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-117
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Proliferation
  • Quiescence
  • Stem cells
  • Telomeres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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