Telomere length change plateaus at 4 years of age in Latino children: associations with baseline length and maternal change

Mol Genet Genomics. 2016 Jun;291(3):1379-89. doi: 10.1007/s00438-016-1191-2. Epub 2016 Mar 10.


Telomeres are the protective complexes at the end of chromosomes, required for genomic stability. Little is known about predictors of attrition in young children or the relationship between parental and child patterns of telomere change. Telomere length was assessed twice over one year, at 4 and at 5 years of age, in Latino preschool children (n = 77) and their mothers (n = 70) in whole blood leukocytes. Maternal and child rates of attrition during the same time period were compared in 70 mother-child pairs. More children showed lengthened telomeres over one year compared to their mothers and very few children showed attrition (2.6 %). Approximately 31 % of children and 16 % of mothers displayed lengthening over one year while 66 % of children showed maintenance in contrast with 74 % of mothers. The strongest predictor for child telomere length change was child's baseline telomere length (r = -0.61, p < 0.01). Maternal rate of change was associated with child rate of change (r = 0.33, p < 0.01). After controlling for child baseline telomere length, the relationship between child and maternal rate of change trended towards significance (Coeff = 0.20, 95 % CI -0.03 to 0.43; p = 0.08). We found primarily maintenance and lengthening from 4 to 5 years of age in children, with minimal telomere attrition, indicating that most of the telomere loss happens in the first 4 years, plateauing by age 4. Lastly, we found close to 10 % of the variance in rate of change in children shared by mothers. While some of this shared variance is genetic, there are likely environmental factors that need to be further identified that impact rate of telomere length change.

Keywords: Attrition rate; Heritability; Latinos; Telomere.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Telomere Homeostasis