Telomere length correlates with life span of dog breeds

Cell Rep. 2012 Dec 27;2(6):1530-6. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2012.11.021.


Telomeric DNA repeats are lost as normal somatic cells replicate. When telomeres reach a critically short length, a DNA damage signal is initiated, inducing cell senescence. Some studies have indicated that telomere length correlates with mortality, suggesting that telomere length contributes to human life span; however, other studies report no correlation, and thus the issue remains controversial. Domestic dogs show parallels in telomere biology to humans, with similar telomere length, telomere attrition, and absence of somatic cell telomerase activity. Using this model, we find that peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) telomere length is a strong predictor of average life span among 15 different breeds (p < 0.0001), consistent with telomeres playing a role in life span determination. Dogs lose telomeric DNA ~10-fold faster than humans, which is similar to the ratio of average life spans between these species. Breeds with shorter mean telomere lengths show an increased probability of death from cardiovascular disease, which was previously correlated with short telomere length in humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / cytology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Male
  • Species Specificity
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism*