We identified the telomere length at different hematological phases in 16 patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), showing disease evolution with a conventional Southern blot hybridization using the (TTAGGG)4 probe. The MDS patients studied were classified into three groups according to the pattern of telomere length reduction. The first group had telomere shortening at the time of disease diagnosis. In four of the six MDS patients in this group, the disease progressed within 6 months postdiagnosis and each of them survived for less than 1 year. Moreover, in this group four patients showed a 5q anomaly with or without additional changes, and 50% of patients in this group had complex chromosome abnormalities. The patients in the second group showed reductions in telomere length after disease progression; two of these three patients showed gradual disease progression and had one or two chromosome abnormalities. The third group comprised the remaining seven MDS patients; they showed no telomere reduction by disease evolution. Two patients in this group experienced rapid disease progression. These results may indicate that telomere reduction is linked to disease evolution in some MDS patients, perhaps as a result of genomic instability because patients with complex chromosome abnormalities were clustered in the first group. However, because some MDS patients show disease progression without telomere reduction, genetic changes, including point mutations of certain gene(s), may also contribute to disease progression. We further noted that telomere shortening at the time of MDS diagnosis might indicate a poor MDS prognosis.


Supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for General Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture, Japan.

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