Aberrantly short telomeres result in decreased longevity in both humans and mice with defective telomere maintenance. Normal populations of humans and mice present high interindividual variation in telomere length, but it is unknown whether this is associated with their lifespan potential. To address this issue, we performed a longitudinal telomere length study along the lifespan of wild-type and transgenic telomerase reverse transcriptase mice. We found that mouse telomeres shorten ∼100 times faster than human telomeres. Importantly, the rate of increase in the percentage of short telomeres, rather than the rate of telomere shortening per month, was a significant predictor of lifespan in both mouse cohorts, and those individuals who showed a higher rate of increase in the percentage of short telomeres were also the ones with a shorter lifespan. These findings demonstrate that short telomeres have a direct impact on longevity in mammals, and they highlight the importance of performing longitudinal telomere studies to predict longevity.
Copyright © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.