Paternal age at birth is an important determinant of offspring telomere length

Hum Mol Genet. 2007 Dec 15;16(24):3097-102. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddm271. Epub 2007 Sep 19.


Although evidence supports the function of telomere length (TL) as a marker for biological aging, no major determinants of TL are known besides inheritance, age and gender. Here we validate and, more importantly, assess the impact of paternal age at birth as a determinant for the offspring's peripheral blood leukocyte TL within the Asklepios study population. Telomere restriction fragment length and paternal age information were available for 2433 volunteers (1176 men and 1257 women) aged approximately 35-55 years old. Paternal age at birth was positively associated with offspring TL (offspring age and gender adjusted, P < 10 (-14)). The increase in TL was estimated at 17 base pairs for each supplemental year at birth and was not statistically different between male and female offspring. The effect size of paternal age outweighed the classical TL determinant gender by a factor of 2, demonstrating the large impact. Maternal age at birth was not independently associated with offspring TL. The peculiar interaction between paternal age at birth and inheritance might explain a large part of the genetic component of TL variance on a population level. This finding also provides further proof for the theory that TL is not completely reset in the zygote. Furthermore, as paternal age is subject to demographic evolution, its association with TL might have a substantial impact on the results and comparability of TL within and between epidemiological studies. In conclusion, paternal age is an important determinant for TL, with substantial consequences for future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / genetics
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Middle Aged
  • Paternal Age*
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*