Do telomeres have a higher plasticity than thought? Results from the German Chronic Kidney Disease (GCKD) study as a high-risk population

Exp Gerontol. 2015 Dec:72:162-6. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2015.09.019. Epub 2015 Sep 28.


Telomere length is considered as a biological marker for aging. It is expected that telomeres shorten with age and with conditions associated with oxidative stress and inflammation. Both are present in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) who have a very high cardiovascular risk. We investigated whether CKD duration is associated with relative telomere length (RTL) in 4802 patients from the German Chronic Kidney Disease (GCKD) study. We measured RTL in each sample in quadruplicates using a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). We observed a U-shaped association of RTL with CKD duration: the longest RTL was found in those 339 patients who reported the shortest disease duration (<6 months) and shorter RTL in 2108 patients with duration between 6 months and less than 5 years. Most importantly, those 2331 patients who reported a CKD duration of 5 years and more had significantly longer RTL compared to those with intermediate CKD duration (6 months to less than 5 years): mean 0.954, 95%CI 0.946-0.961 versus 0.937, 95%CI 0.929-0.944, p=0.002). Due to the cross-sectional nature of the study these surprising results have to be considered with caution and as hypothesis-generating. Whether the longer RTL in patients with long-lasting disease is caused by an activation of telomerase to counteract the shortening of RTL due to oxidative stress and inflammation or whether they are caused by a survival bias needs to be investigated in longitudinal studies. Our data are in support of a higher plasticity of shortening and elongations of RTL as until recently anticipated.

Keywords: Disease duration; Kidney disease; Telomerase activity; Telomere length.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / genetics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*


  • Biomarkers