Background: Replicative senescence, associated with telomere shortening, plays an important role in aging and cardiovascular disease. The relation between telomere length, cardiovascular risk, and renal disease is unknown.
Methods: Our study consisted of a cohort of 257 kidney donors for transplantation, divided into a test and a validation cohort. We used quantitative RT-PCR to measure relative telomere length (log T/S ratio) in peripheral blood leucocytes, and in kidney biopsies performed prior to implantation. The association between leucocyte and intrarenal telomere length, cardiovascular risk factors, and renal histology, was studied using multiple regression models, adjusted for calendar age, gender and other donor demographics.
Results: Subjects with intrarenal arteriosclerosis had significantly shorter leucocyte telomere length compared with patients without arteriosclerosis (log T/S ratio -0.3±0.4 vs. 0.1±0.2 with vs. without arteriosclerosis; p=0.0008). Intrarenal arteriosclerosis was associated with shorter telomere length, independent of gender, calendar age, history of hypertension and history of cardiovascular events. For each increase of one standard deviation of the log T/S ratio, the odds for intrarenal arteriosclerosis decreased with 64% (Odds ratio 0.36; 95% CI 0.17-0.77; p=0.02). In accordance with leucocyte telomere length, shorter intrarenal telomere length associated significantly with the presence of renal arteriosclerosis (log T/S ratio -0.04±0.06 vs. 0.08±0.01 with vs. without arteriosclerosis, p=0.007), and not with other histological lesions.
Interpretation: We demonstrate that arteriosclerosis in smaller intrarenal arteries is associated with shorter telomere length. Our study suggests a central role of replicative senescence in the progression of renovascular disease, independent of calendar age.
Keywords: arteriosclerosis; histology; kidney; replicative senescence; telomere length.