Context: Although numerous theories are reported on sex differences in longevity, the underlying biological mechanisms remain unknown. We previously reported that telomere length in the zona reticularis cells of the human adrenal cortex was significantly longer in older than that in younger subjects. However, we could not evaluate sex differences in the telomere lengths.
Objective: To compare the telomere lengths of adrenocortical and adrenal medullar cells between men and women from infancy through older adulthood.
Methods: Adrenal glands of 30 male (aged 0 to 100 years) and 25 female (aged 0 to 104 years) autopsied subjects were retrieved from autopsy files. Using quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization, relative telomere lengths were determined in the parenchymal cells of the 3 adrenocortical zones and medulla. Age-related changes in the weight of adrenal glands were also investigated.
Main results: Older male subjects (aged 65 years or older) had significantly shorter telomere lengths in zona fasciculata (ZF) cells compared to the corresponding female subjects. In men, older subjects exhibited a significant age-related reduction in adrenal weight; however, no age-related changes in adrenal weight were detected in women.
Conclusion: Telomere attrition of ZF cells was correlated with adrenal weight reduction in older men but not in older women, suggesting a decreased number of ZF cells in older men. This may help us understand the possible biological mechanisms of sex difference in longevity of humans.
Keywords: adrenal weight; longevity; quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization; sex difference; telomere.
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