Telomere length and vitamin B12

Vitam Horm. 2022;119:299-324. doi: 10.1016/bs.vh.2022.01.014. Epub 2022 Feb 25.


Telomeres are non-coding nucleoprotein structures consisting of a highly conserved tandem repeat DNA sequence that caps the ends of chromosomes in eukaryotes. Telomeres confer chromosomal stability, protect the genome from nucleolytic degradation, avoid aberrant recombination and improper repair, and prevent random fusion of chromosomes. The end-replication problem results in telomere shortening with every cell division, eventually leading to cellular senescence and aging. Telomere length (TL) is thereby an ideal candidate for "biological aging." Telomeres possess guanine-rich repeats, which are highly susceptible to oxidative stress. Epidemiological studies have indicated the association of telomere attrition with mortality and various age-related diseases. Micronutrients comprising vitamins and minerals act as potential modulators of stress and can influence TL. Research has indicated that vitamin B12 (B12) regulates oxidative stress and maintains genomic stability, thereby influencing telomere integrity and cellular aging. The deficiency of B12 leads to elevated levels of homocysteine, which reduces the methylation potential and increases oxidative stress, thereby compromising the TL. Telomere shortening and mitochondrial dysfunction are independently linked to aging. However, they are connected through telomerase reverse transcriptase activity, which regulates mitochondrial biogenesis. Further, experimental evidence indicated the positive association of B12 with relative TL and mitochondrial DNA copy number, an indirect index of mitochondrial biogenesis. The present chapter provides some insights into the role of B12 in influencing TL. Exploring their association might open new avenues to understand the pathophysiology of aging and age-related diseases.

Keywords: 8-Oxo-G; Aging; Homocysteine; Methylation; Mitochondrial DNA copy number oxidative stress; Telomerase; Telomere length; Vitamin B12.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Humans
  • Telomerase* / genetics
  • Telomerase* / metabolism
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Vitamin B 12*


  • Telomerase
  • Vitamin B 12