Telomere length assessment: biomarker of chronic oxidative stress?

Free Radic Biol Med. 2008 Feb 1;44(3):235-46. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2007.10.001. Epub 2007 Oct 10.


Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures, located at the ends of chromosomes and are subject to shortening at each cycle of cell division. They prevent chromosomal ends from being recognized as double strand breaks and protect them from end to end fusion and degradation. Telomeres consist of stretches of repetitive DNA with a high G-C content and are reported to be highly sensitive to damage induced by oxidative stress. The resulting DNA strand breaks can be formed either directly or as an intermediate step during the repair of oxidative bases. In contrast to the majority of genomic DNA, there is evidence that telomeric DNA is deficient in the repair of single strand breaks. Since chronic oxidative stress plays a major role in the pathophysiology of several chronic inflammatory diseases, it is hypothesized that telomere length is reducing at a faster rate during oxidative stress. Therefore, assessment of telomere length might be a useful biomarker of disease progression. In this review several features of telomere length regulation, their relation with oxidative stress, and the potential application of measurement of telomere length as biomarker of chronic oxidative stress, will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / chemistry
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Telomere / chemistry*
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases