Results from the German Chronic Kidney Disease (GCKD) study support association of relative telomere length with mortality in a large cohort of patients with moderate chronic kidney disease

Kidney Int. 2020 Aug;98(2):488-497. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2020.02.034. Epub 2020 Apr 7.


Telomere length is known to be inversely associated with aging and has been proposed as a marker for aging-related diseases. Telomere attrition can be accelerated by oxidative stress and inflammation, both commonly present in patients with chronic kidney disease. Here, we investigated whether relative telomere length is associated with mortality in a large cohort of patients with chronic kidney disease stage G3 and A1-3 or G1-2 with overt proteinuria (A3) at enrollment. Relative telomere length was quantified in peripheral blood by a quantitative PCR method in 4,955 patients from the GCKD study, an ongoing prospective observational cohort. Complete four-year follow-up was available from 4,926 patients in whom we recorded 354 deaths. Relative telomere length was a strong and independent predictor of all-cause mortality. Each decrease of 0.1 relative telomere length unit was highly associated with a 14% increased risk of death (hazard ratio1.14 [95% confidence interval 1.06-1.22]) in a model adjusted for age, sex, baseline eGFR, urine albumin/creatinine ratio, diabetes mellitus, prevalent cardiovascular disease, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, smoking, body mass index, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, C-reactive protein and serum albumin. This translated to a 75% higher risk for those in the lowest compared to the highest quartile of relative telomere length. The association was mainly driven by 117 cardiovascular deaths (1.20 [1.05-1.35]) as well as 67 deaths due to infections (1.27 [1.07-1.50]). Thus, our findings support an association of shorter telomere length with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and death due to infections in patients with moderate chronic kidney disease.

Keywords: chronic kidney disease; infections; mortality; relative telomere length.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / genetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / diagnosis
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / genetics
  • Risk Factors
  • Telomere / genetics