Telomeres in neurological disorders

Adv Clin Chem. 2019;90:81-132. doi: 10.1016/bs.acc.2019.01.003. Epub 2019 Feb 21.


Ever since their discovery, the telomeres and the telomerase have been topics of intensive research, first as a mechanism of cellular aging and later as an indicator of health and diseases in humans. By protecting the chromosome ends, the telomeres play a vital role in preserving the information in our genome. Telomeres shorten with age and the rate of telomere erosion provides insight into the proliferation history of cells. The pace of telomere attrition is known to increase at the onset of several pathological conditions. Telomere shortening has been emerging as a potential contributor in the pathogenesis of several neurological disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and depression. The rate of telomere attrition in the brain is slower than that of other tissues owing to the low rate of cell proliferation in brain. Telomere maintenance is crucial for the functioning of stem cells in brain. Taking together the studies on telomere attrition in various neurological disorders, an association between telomere shortening and disease status has been demonstrated in schizophrenia, AD and depression, in spite of a few negative reports. But, studies in ASD and PD have failed to produce conclusive results. The cause-effect relationship between TL and neurological disorders is yet to be elucidated. The factors responsible for telomere erosion, which have also been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurological disorders, need to be explored in detail. Telomerase activation is now being considered as a potential therapeutic strategy for neurological disorders.

Keywords: Alzheimer; Autism; Depression; Parkinson; Schizophrenia; Telomerase; Telomere.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Nervous System Diseases / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere / metabolism*