Telomere and its role in the aging pathways: telomere shortening, cell senescence and mitochondria dysfunction

Biogerontology. 2019 Feb;20(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10522-018-9769-1. Epub 2018 Sep 18.


Aging is a biological process characterized by a progressive functional decline in tissues and organs, which eventually leads to mortality. Telomeres, the repetitive DNA repeat sequences at the end of linear eukaryotic chromosomes protecting chromosome ends from degradation and illegitimate recombination, play a crucial role in cell fate and aging. Due to the mechanism of replication, telomeres shorten as cells proliferate, which consequently contributes to cellular senescence and mitochondrial dysfunction. Cells are the basic unit of organismal structure and function, and mitochondria are the powerhouse and metabolic center of cells. Therefore, cellular senescence and mitochondrial dysfunction would result in tissue or organ degeneration and dysfunction followed by somatic aging through multiple pathways. In this review, we summarized the main mechanisms of cellular senescence, mitochondrial malfunction and aging triggered by telomere attrition. Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the aging process may elicit new strategies for improving health and extending lifespan.

Keywords: Aging; Cellular senescence; Mitochondrial dysfunction; Telomere; Telomere shortening.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Turnover / physiology
  • Telomere / physiology*
  • Telomere Shortening