Telomere length and reproductive aging

Hum Reprod. 2009 May;24(5):1206-11. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dep007. Epub 2009 Feb 6.


Background: Rate of reproductive aging may be related to rate of biological aging. Thus, indicators of aging, such as short telomere length, may be more frequent in women with a history suggestive of premature reproductive senescence.

Methods: Telomere-specific quantitative PCR was used to assess telomere length in two groups of women with evidence of reproductive aging: (i) patients with idiopathic premature ovarian failure (POF, N = 34) and (ii) women with a history of recurrent miscarriage (RM, N = 95); and two control groups: (1) women from the general population (C1, N = 108) and (2) women who had a healthy pregnancy after 37 years of age (C2, N = 46).

Results: The RM group had shorter age-adjusted mean telomere length than controls (8.46 versus 8.92 kb in C1 and 9.11 kb in C2, P = 0.0004 and P = 0.02 for C1 and C2, respectively), although short telomeres were not confined to subsets of this group known to have experienced single or multiple trisomic pregnancies. Although sample size is limited, mean telomere length in the POF group was significantly longer than that in C1 (9.58 versus 8.92 kb, P = 0.01).

Conclusions: Women experiencing RM may have shorter telomeres as a consequence of a more rapid rate of aging, or as a reflection of an increased level of cellular stress. Longer telomere length in the POF group may be explained by abnormal hormone exposure, slow cell division rates or autoimmunity in these women. Despite small sample sizes, these results suggest that different manifestations of reproductive aging are likely influenced by distinct physiological factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Habitual / genetics*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging, Premature / genetics*
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Maternal Age
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / genetics*
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*