Salivary Telomere Length and Lung Function in Adolescents Born Very Preterm: A Prospective Multicenter Study

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 10;10(9):e0136123. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136123. eCollection 2015.


Preterm birth is associated with abnormal respiratory functions throughout life. The mechanisms underlying these long-term consequences are still unclear. Shortening of telomeres was associated with many conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We aimed to search for an association between telomere length and lung function in adolescents born preterm. Lung function and telomere length were measured in 236 adolescents born preterm and 38 born full-term from the longitudinal EPIPAGE cohort. Associations between telomere length and spirometric indices were tested in univariate and multivariate models accounting for confounding factors in the study population. Airflows were significantly lower in adolescents born preterm than controls; forced expiratory volume in one second was 12% lower in the extremely preterm born group than controls (p<0.001). Lower birth weight, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and postnatal sepsis were significantly associated with lower airflow values. Gender was the only factor that was significantly associated with telomere length. Telomere length correlated with forced expiratory flow 25-75 in the extremely preterm adolescent group in univariate and multivariate analyses (p = 0.01 and p = 0.02, respectively). We evidenced an association between telomere length and abnormal airflow in a population of adolescents born extremely preterm. There was no evident association with perinatal events. This suggests other involved factors, such as a continuing airway oxidative stress leading to persistent inflammation and altered lung function, ultimately increasing susceptibility to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Premature / metabolism*
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Telomere Homeostasis*

Grants and funding

The present study was sponsored by Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (Département de la Recherche Clinique et de Développement). The study was funded by a grant from Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique—PHRC 2010 (Ministère de la Santé, N°AOM P100117). AH was funded by l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-12-BSV1-0004-01). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.