Telomere length tracking in children and their parents: implications for adult onset diseases

FASEB J. 2019 Dec;33(12):14248-14253. doi: 10.1096/fj.201901275R. Epub 2019 Oct 25.


Adults with comparatively short or long leukocyte telomere length (LTL) typically continue to display comparatively short or long LTL throughout life. This LTL tracking stems from the inability of person-to-person variation in age-dependent LTL shortening during adulthood to offset the wide interindividual LTL variation established prior to adult life. However, LTL tracking in children is unstudied. This study aimed to examine LTL shortening rates and tracking in children and their parents. Longitudinal study in children (n = 67) and their parents (n = 99), whose ages at baseline were 11.4 ± 0.3 and 43.4 ± 0.4 yr, respectively. LTL was measured by Southern blotting at baseline and ∼14 yr thereafter. LTL displayed tracking in both children [intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) = 0.905, P < 0.001] and their parents (ICC = 0.856, P < 0.001). The children's rate of LTL shortening was twice that of their parents (40.7 ± 2.5 bp/yr; 20.3 ± 2.1 bp/yr, respectively; P < 0.0001). LTL tracking applies not only to adulthood but also to the second decade of life. Coupled with previous work showing that the interindividual variation in LTL across newborns is as wide as in their parents, these findings support the thesis that the LTL-adult disease connection is principally determined before the second decade of life, perhaps mainly at birth.-Benetos, A., Verhulst, S., Labat, C., Lai, T.-P., Girerd, N., Toupance, S., Zannad, F., Rossignol, P., Aviv, A. Telomere length tracking in children and their parents: implications for adult onset diseases.

Trial registration: NCT01391442.

Keywords: aging; leukocytes; telomere attrition; terminal restriction fragments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Telomere Homeostasis*
  • Telomere Shortening*

Associated data