Expression of Telomeric Repeat-Containing RNA Decreases in Sarcopenia and Increases after Exercise and Nutrition Intervention

Nutrients. 2020 Dec 8;12(12):3766. doi: 10.3390/nu12123766.


Sarcopenia is defined as aging-related loss of muscle mass and function. Telomere length in chromosomes shortens with age and is modulated by telomeric repeat-containing RNA (TERRA). This study aimed to explore the impact of aging and sarcopenia on telomere length and TERRA expression, and changes following strengthening exercise and nutrition intervention (supplement of branched-chain amino acids, calcium and vitamin D3) for 12 weeks in the sarcopenic population. Older adults (≥65 years old) were divided into non-sarcopenic controls (n = 36) and sarcopenic individuals (n = 36) after measurement of grip strength and body composition. The relative telomere length of leukocytes in all research participants was evaluated using the T/S ratio (telomere/single copy gene), and relative TERRA expression of leukocytes was determined by reverse-transcription qPCR (RT-qPCR). Generalized estimating equation (GEE) was used to analyze the influence of sarcopenia and intervention on the outcomes. There was no significant difference in telomere length between control subjects and participants with sarcopenia. TERRA expression was lower in sarcopenic participants compared to that in non-sarcopenic controls (5.18 ± 2.98 vs. 2.51 ± 1.89; p < 0.001). In the sarcopenic group, intervention significantly increased TERRA expression, but not telomere length. The GEE analysis demonstrated that TERRA expression was negatively associated with sarcopenia (β coefficient = -2.705, p < 0.001) but positively associated with intervention (β coefficient = 1.599, p = 0.023). Sarcopenia is associated with a decrease in TERRA expression in leukocytes. Rebound TERRA expression (returning to the level similar to the non-sarcopenic controls) was observed in the sarcopenic group after exercise and nutrition intervention. Future studies are warranted to examine the potential of TERRA as a biomarker for sarcopenia and its subsequent responses to intervention.

Keywords: TERRA; exercise; nutrition; sarcopenia; telomere.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Composition
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Nutritional Status
  • RNA / genetics*
  • Sarcopenia / diagnosis
  • Sarcopenia / genetics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telomere
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • DMRT2 protein, human
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • RNA