Offspring's leukocyte telomere length, paternal age, and telomere elongation in sperm

PLoS Genet. 2008 Feb;4(2):e37. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0040037.


Leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a complex genetic trait. It shortens with age and is associated with a host of aging-related disorders. Recent studies have observed that offspring of older fathers have longer LTLs. We explored the relation between paternal age and offspring's LTLs in 4 different cohorts. Moreover, we examined the potential cause of the paternal age on offspring's LTL by delineating telomere parameters in sperm donors. We measured LTL by Southern blots in Caucasian men and women (n=3365), aged 18-94 years, from the Offspring of the Framingham Heart Study (Framingham Offspring), the NHLBI Family Heart Study (NHLBI-Heart), the Longitudinal Study of Aging Danish Twins (Danish Twins), and the UK Adult Twin Registry (UK Twins). Using Southern blots, Q-FISH, and flow-FISH, we also measured telomere parameters in sperm from 46 young (<30 years) and older (>50 years) donors. Paternal age had an independent effect, expressed by a longer LTL in males of the Framingham Offspring and Danish Twins, males and females of the NHLBI-Heart, and females of UK Twins. For every additional year of paternal age, LTL in offspring increased at a magnitude ranging from half to more than twice of the annual attrition in LTL with age. Moreover, sperm telomere length analyses were compatible with the emergence in older men of a subset of sperm with elongated telomeres. Paternal age exerts a considerable effect on the offspring's LTL, a phenomenon which might relate to telomere elongation in sperm from older men. The implications of this effect deserve detailed study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukocytes / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Middle Aged
  • Paternal Age*
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Spermatozoa / ultrastructure*
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*

Grant support