Here we show a correlation between telomere length and organismal sensitivity to ionizing radiation (IR) in mammals. In particular, fifth generation (G5) mouse telomerase RNA (mTR)(-/-) mice, with telomeres 40% shorter than in wild-type mice, are hypersensitive to cumulative doses of gamma rays. 60% of the irradiated G5 mTR(-/-) mice die of acute radiation toxicity in the gastrointestinal tract, lymphoid organs, and kidney. The affected G5 mTR(-/-) mice show higher chromosomal damage and greater apoptosiS than similarly irradiated wild-type controls. Furthermore, we show that G5 mTR(-/-) mice show normal frequencies of sister chromatid exchange and normal V(D)J recombination, suggesting that short telomeres do not significantly affect the efficiency of DNA double strand break repair in mammals. The IR-sensitive phenotype of G5 mTR(-/-) mice suggests that telomere function is one of the determinants of radiation sensitivity of whole animals.
- DNA DSB repair