Purpose: Both telomere length and mitochondrial function are accepted as reflective indices of aging. Recent studies have shown that telomere dysfunction may influence impaired mitochondrial biogenesis and function. However, there has been no study regarding the possible association between telomere and mitochondrial function in humans. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to identify any relationships between mitochondrial and telomere function.
Methods: The present study included 129 community-dwelling, elderly women. The leukocyte mitochondrial DNA copy number and telomere length were measured using a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction method. Anthropometric measurement, biochemical blood testing, a depression screening questionnaire using a 15-question geriatric depression scale (GDS-15), and a cognitive function test using the Korean version of the mini mental state examination (K-MMSE) were performed.
Results: Leukocyte mtDNA copy number was positively associated with telomere length (r=0.39, p=<0.0001) and K-MMSE score (r=0.06, p=0.02). Additionally, leukocyte mtDNA copy number was negatively correlated with GDS-15 score (r=-0.17, p=0.04). Age (r=-0.15, p=0.09), waist circumference (r=-0.16, p=0.07), and serum ferritin level (r=-0.13, p=0.07) tended to be inversely correlated with leukocyte mtDNA copy number. With a stepwise multiple regression analysis, telomere length was found to be an independent factor associated with leukocyte mtDNA copy number after adjustment for confounding variables including age, body mass index, waist circumference, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, hs-CRP, serum ferritin, HOMA-IR, K-MMSE, GDS-15, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, currently smoking, alcohol drinking, and regular exercise.
Conclusions: This study showed that leukocyte mtDNA copy number was positively correlated with leukocyte telomere length in community-dwelling elderly women. Our findings suggest that telomere function may influence mitochondrial function in humans.