Background: The telomeric 3'-overhang (G-tail) length is essential for the biological effects of telomere dysfunction in vitro, but the association of length with aging and cardiovascular risk is unclear in humans. We investigated the association between the telomere G-tail length of leukocytes and cardiovascular risk, age-related white matter changes (ARWMCs), and endothelial function.
Methods: Patients with a history of cerebrovascular disease and comorbidity were enrolled (n = 102; 69 males and 33 females, 70.1 ± 9.2 years). Total telomere and telomere G-tail lengths were measured using a hybridization protection assay. Endothelial function was evaluated by ultrasound assessment of brachial flow-mediated dilation (FMD).
Findings: Shortened telomere G-tail length was associated with age and Framingham risk score (P = 0.018 and P = 0.012). In addition, telomere G-tail length was positively correlated with FMD values (P = 0.031) and negatively with the severity of ARWMCs (P = 0.002). On multivariate regression analysis, telomere G-tail length was independently associated with FMD values (P = 0.022) and the severity of ARWMCs (P = 0.033), whereas total telomere length was not associated with these indicators.
Interpretation: Telomere G-tail length is associated with age and vascular risk factors, and might be superior to total telomere length as a marker of endothelial dysfunction and ARWMC severity.
Keywords: Endothelial dysfunction; Telomere G-tail lengths; Telomere lengths; White matter changes.