The human lifespan is strongly influenced by telomere length (TL) which is defined in a zygote-when two highly specialised haploid cells form a new diploid organism. Although TL is a variable parameter, it fluctuates in a limited range. We aimed to establish the determining factors of TL in chromosomes of maternal and paternal origin in human triploid zygotes. Using Q-FISH, we examined TL in the metaphase chromosomes of 28 human triploid zygotes obtained from 22 couples. The chromosomes' parental origin was identified immunocytochemically through weak DNA methylation and strong hydroxymethylation in the sperm-derived (paternal) chromosomes versus strong DNA methylation and weak hydroxymethylation in the oocyte-derived (maternal) ones. In 24 zygotes, one maternal and two paternal chromosome sets were identified, while the four remaining zygotes contained one paternal and two maternal sets. For each zygote, we compared mean relative TLs between parental chromosomes, identifying a significant difference in favour of the paternal chromosomes, which attests to a certain "imprinting" of these regions. Mean relative TLs in paternal or maternal chromosomes did not correlate with the respective parent's age. Similarly, no correlation was observed between the mean relative TL and sperm quality parameters: concentration, progressive motility and normal morphology. Based on the comparison of TLs in chromosomes inherited from a single individual's gametes with those in chromosomes inherited from different individuals' gametes, we compared intraindividual (intercellular) and interindividual variability, obtaining significance in favour of the latter and thus validating the role of heredity in determining TL in zygotes. A comparison of the interchromatid TL differences across the chromosomes from sets of different parental origin with those from PHA-stimulated lymphocytes showed an absence of a significant difference between the maternal and paternal sets but a significant excess over the lymphocytes. Therefore, interchromatid TL differences are more pronounced in zygotes than in lymphocytes. To summarise, TL in human zygotes is determined both by heredity and parental origin; the input of other factors is possible within the individual's reaction norm.
Keywords: age; human zygote; maternal and paternal pronuclei; metaphase chromosomes; parental origin; sperm quality; telomere length.