Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been associated with reduced leukocyte telomere length (LTL). It is not known, however, whether psychosocial and behavioral protective factors moderate this association. In the current study, we examine whether multisystem resiliency – defined by healthy emotion regulation, strong social connections, and health behaviors (sleep and exercise) – predicts LTL and mitigates previously demonstrated associations between depression diagnosis and LTL. LTL was measured, using a quantitative PCR assay, in 954 patients with stable cardiovascular disease in the Heart and Soul Study. In a fully adjusted model, high multisystem resiliency predicted longer LTL (b = 80.00, SE = 27.17, p = .003), whereas each individual factor did not. Multisystem resiliency significantly moderated the MDD-LTL association (p = .02). Specifically, MDD was significantly related to LTL at 1 SD below the mean of multisystem resiliency (b = −142.86, SE = 56.46, p = .01), but not at 1 SD above the mean (b = 49.07, SE = 74.51, p = .51). This study suggests that MDD associations with biological outcomes should be examined within a psychosocial–behavioral context, because this context shapes the nature of the direct relationship. Further research should explore the cognitive, neural, and other physiological pathways through which multisystem resiliency may confer biological benefit.
Major depressive disorder; Telomeres; Cell aging; Resiliency; Social connections; Emotion regulation; Physical activity
Telomere attrition is a novel risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Studies of telomere length in relation to kidney function are limited. We explored the association of kidney function with telomere length and telomere shortening.
The Heart and Soul study is a longitudinal study of patients with stable coronary heart disease (CHD). Measures of baseline kidney function included: serum creatinine, creatinine-derived estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFRCKD-EPI), 24-hour urine measured creatinine clearance, cystatin C, cystatin C-derived estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFRcys) and urine albumin to creatinine ratio. Telomere length was measured from peripheral blood leukocytes at baseline (N=954) and 5 years later (N=608). Linear regression models were used to test the association of kidney function with i) baseline telomere length and ii) change in telomere length over 5 years.
At baseline, mean eGFRCKD-EPI was 72.6 (± 21.5) ml/min/1.73 m2, eGFRcys was 71.0 (± 23.1) ml/min/1.73 m2 and ACR was 8.6 (±12.3) mg/gm. Only lower baseline eGFRCKD-EPI was associated with shorter baseline telomere length (9.1 [95% CI 1.2–16.9] fewer base pairs for every 5 ml/min/1.73 m2 lower eGFRCKD-EPI). Lower baseline eGFRCKD-EPI (and all other measures of kidney function) predicted more rapid telomere shortening (10.8 [95% CI 4.3–17.3] decrease in base pairs over 5 years for every 5 ml/min/1.73 m2 lower eGFRCKD-EPI). After adjustment for age, these associations were no longer statistically significant.
In patients with CHD, reduced kidney function is associated with i) shorter baseline telomere length and ii) more rapid telomere shortening over 5 years, however these associations are entirely explained by older age.
kidney; CKD; telomere
Telomeres play a central role in cellular senescence and are associated with a variety of age-related disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease and atherosclerosis. Telomere length varies greatly among individuals of the same age, and is heritable. Here we performed a genome-wide linkage scan to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) influencing leukocyte telomere length (LTL) measured by quantitative PCR in 3,665 American Indians (aged 14 – 93 years) from 94 large, multi-generational families. All participants were recruited by the Strong Heart Family Study (SHFS), a prospective study to identify genetic factors for cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in American Indians residing in Oklahoma, Arizona and Dakota. LTL heritability was estimated to be between 51% and 62%, suggesting a strong genetic predisposition to interindividual variation of LTL in this population. Significant QTLs were localized to chromosome 13 (Logarithm of odds score (LOD) = 3.9) at 13q12.11, to 18q22.2 (LOD = 3.2) and to 3p14.1 (LOD = 3.0) for Oklahoma. This is the first study to identify susceptibility loci influencing leukocyte telomere variation in American Indians, a minority group suffering from a disproportionately high rate of type 2 diabetes and other age-related disorders.
leukocyte telomere length; genome-wide linkage scan; quantitative trait loci; American Indians
Chronic psychological stressis a risk factor formultiple diseases of aging. Accelerated cellular aging as indexed by short telomere length has emerged as a potential common biological mechanism linking various forms of psychological stress and diseases of aging. Stress appraisals determine the degree and type of biological stress responses and altered stress appraisals may be a common psychological mechanism linking psychological stress and diseases of aging. However, no previous studies have examined the relationship between stress appraisals and telomere length. We exposed chronically stressed female caregivers and non-caregiving controls (N= 50; M age = 62.14±6.10) to a standardized acute laboratory stressor and measured their anticipatory and retrospective threat and challenge appraisals of the stressor. We hypothesized that threat and challenge appraisals would be associated with shorter and longer telomere length respectively, and that chronic care giving stress would influence telomere length through altered stress appraisals. Higher anticipatory threat appraisals were associated with shorter age-adjusted telomere length (β = −.32, p = .03), but challenge appraisals and retrospective threat appraisals showed no independent association with telomere length. Caregivers reported significantly higher anticipatory (β = −.36, p = .006)and retrospective (β = −.29, p = .03) threat appraisals than controls, but similar challenge appraisals. Although there was no significant main effect of caregiver status on telomere length, care giving had a significant indirect effect on telomere length through anticipatory threat appraisals. Exaggerated anticipatory threat appraisals may be a common and modifiable psychological mechanism of psychological stress effects on cellular aging.
cellular aging; challenge; chronic stress; stress appraisals; threat; telomere length
Recent studies suggest that chronic psychological stress may accelerate aging at the cellular level. Telomeres are protective components that stabilize the ends of chromosomes and modulate cellular aging. Women exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) experience chronic stress and report worse health. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine telomeric DNA length in women who have experienced chronic stress related to IPV. We hypothesized that IPV exposure would be associated with shorter telomere length. The investigation used a cross-sectional design to study telomere length in women with a history of IPV exposure and control women who reported no prior exposure to IPV. Advertisements and public notices were used to recruit a convenience sample of healthy women. Mean leukocyte telomere length was measured in DNA samples from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by a quantitative polymerase chain reaction assay (qPCR). Telomere length was significantly shorter in the 61 formerly abused women compared to the 41 controls (t = 2.4, p = .02). Length of time in the abusive relationship and having children were associated with telomere length after controlling for age and body mass index (F(2,99) = 10.23, p < .001). Numerous studies suggest that women who experience IPV have poorer overall health. It is often presumed that the stress of IPV may be causing greater morbidity. Findings from this descriptive study suggest a link between IPV exposure, duration of IPV-related stress, and telomere length molecular mechanisms that regulate cellular aging.
intimate partner violence; telomere length; chronic stress
Apolipoprotein-ε4 (APOE-ε4) is a major genetic risk factor for cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease (AD) and early mortality. An accelerated rate of biological aging could contribute to this increased risk. Here, we determined whether APOE-ε4 status impacts leukocyte telomere length (TL) and the rate of cellular senescence in healthy mid-life women and, further, whether hormone replacement therapy (HT) modifies this association. Post-menopausal women (N = 63, Mean age = 57.7), all HT users for at least one year, were enrolled in a randomized longitudinal study. Half of the participants (N = 32) remained on their HT regimen and half (N = 31) went off HT for approximately two years (Mean = 1.93 years). Participants included 24 APOE-ε4 carriers and 39 non-carrier controls. Leukocyte TL was measured at baseline and the end of year 2 using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Logistic regression analysis indicated that the odds of an APOE-ε4 carrier exhibiting telomere shortening (versus maintenance/growth) over the 2-year study were more than 6 (OR = 6.26, 95% CI = 1.02, 38.49) times higher than a non-carrier, adjusting for established risk factors and potential confounds. Despite the high-functioning, healthy mid-life status of study participants, APOE-ε4 carriers had marked telomere attrition during the 2-year study window, the equivalent of approximately one decade of additional aging compared to non-carriers. Further analyses revealed a modulatory effect of hormone therapy on the association between APOE status and telomere attrition. APOE-ε4 carriers who went off their HT regimen exhibited TL shortening, as predicted for the at-risk population. APOE-ε4 carriers who remained on HT, however, did not exhibit comparable signs of cell aging. The opposite pattern was found in non-carriers. The results suggest that hormone use might buffer against accelerated cell aging in mid-life women at risk for dementia. Importantly, for non-carrier women there was no evidence that HT conferred protective effects on telomere dynamics.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with increased risk for age-related diseases and early mortality. An accelerated rate of biological aging could contribute to this increased risk. To investigate, we assessed leukocyte telomere length (LTL), an emerging marker of biological age, in men and women with and without PTSD. We also examined childhood trauma, a risk factor for both PTSD and short LTL, as a potential contributor to short LTL in PTSD.
Participants included 43 adults with chronic PTSD (n=18 with multiple categories of childhood trauma) and 47 controls (none with multiple categories of childhood trauma) (M age = 30.55, SD = 7.44). Exclusion criteria included physical illness, medication use, obesity, alcohol or substance abuse, and pregnancy. Structured clinical interviews were conducted to assess PTSD and other psychiatric disorders and childhood trauma exposure. LTL was measured with quantitative polymerase chain reaction.
As predicted, participants with PTSD had shorter age-adjusted LTL than controls. Exposure to childhood trauma was also associated with short LTL. In fact, childhood trauma appeared to account for the PTSD group difference in LTL; only participants with PTSD and exposure to multiple categories of childhood trauma had significantly shorter LTL than controls.
Childhood trauma is associated with short LTL in individuals with PTSD. Chronic exposure to the psychobiological sequelae of childhood trauma could increase risk for PTSD and short LTL. Thus, the lasting psychological impact of exposure to trauma in childhood may be accompanied by equally enduring changes at the molecular level.
anxiety; biological aging; childhood trauma; post-traumatic stress disorder; telomere length
Shortened telomere length has been associated with mortality in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) and is considered an emerging marker of biological age. Whether depression is associated with telomere length or trajectory has not been evaluated in patients with CHD.
In a prospective cohort study, we measured leukocyte telomere length in 952 participants with stable CHD at baseline and in 608 of these participants after 5 years of follow up. Presence of major depressive disorder (MDD) in the past month was assessed using the computerized Diagnostic Interview Schedule (CDIS-IV) at baseline. We used linear and logistic regression models to evaluate the association of depression with baseline and 5-year change in leukocyte telomere length.
Of the 952 participants, 206 (22%) had major depression at baseline. After adjustment for age and sex, patients with current major depressive disorder had shorter baseline telomere length than those without depression (mean ± SE: 0.86±0.02 vs. 0.90±0.01, P= 0.02). This association was similar (but no longer statistically significant) after adjustment for body mass index, smoking, diabetes, left ventricular ejection fraction, statin use, antidepressant use, physical inactivity, and anxiety (0.85±0.02 vs. 0.89±0.01, P= 0.06). Depression was not predictive of 5-year change in telomere length after adjustment for the above covariates and baseline telomere length.
Depression is associated with reduced leukocyte telomere length in patients with coronary heart disease but does not predict 5-year change in telomere length. Future research is necessary to elucidate the potential mechanisms underlying the association between depression and telomere length.
Depression; telomere length; stable CHD
To examine associations between autonomic nervous system and adrenocortical reactivity to laboratory stressors and buccal cell telomere length (BTL) in children.
The study sample comprised 78 five- and six-year-old children from a longitudinal cohort study of kindergarten social hierarchies, biological responses to adversity, and child health. Buccal cell samples and reactivity measures were collected in the spring of the kindergarten year. BTL was measured by realtime PCR, as the telomere-to-single copy gene (T/S) ratio. Parents provided demographic information; parents and teachers reported children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Components of children’s autonomic (heart rate (HR), respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), pre-ejection period (PEP)) and adrenocortical (salivary cortisol) responses were monitored during standardized laboratory challenges. We examined relations between reactivity, internalizing and externalizing behavior, and BTL, adjusted for age, race, and gender.
Heart rate and cortisol reactivity were inversely related to BTL, PEP was positively related to BTL, and RSA was unrelated. Internalizing behaviors were also inversely related to BTL (standardized β=−0.33, p=0.004). Split at the median of reactivity parameters, children with high sympathetic activation (decreasing PEP) and high parasympathetic withdrawal (decreasing RSA) did not differ with regard to BTL. However, children with both this profile and high cortisol reactivity (N=12) had significantly shorter BTL (0.80 vs. 1.00, χ2=7.6, p=0.006), compared with other children.
Autonomic and adrenocortical reactivity in combination were associated with shorter buccal cell telomere length in children. These data suggest that psychophysiological processes may influence, and that BTL may be a useful marker of, early biological aging.
autonomic reactivity; adrenocortical reactivity; buccal cell telomeres; internalizing; stress; children
Psychological distress and metabolic dysregulation are associated with markers of accelerated cellular aging, including reduced telomerase activity and shortened telomere length. We examined whether participation in a mindfulness-based intervention, and, secondarily, improvements in psychological distress, eating behavior, and metabolic factors are associated with increases in telomerase activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).
We enrolled 47 overweight/obese women in a randomized waitlist-controlled pilot trial (n = 47) of a mindfulness-based intervention for stress eating and examined changes in telomerase activity from pre- to post-intervention. In secondary analyses, changes in telomerase activity across the sample were examined in relation to pre- to post-intervention changes in psychological distress, eating behavior, and metabolic factors (weight, serum cortisol, fasting glucose and insulin, and insulin resistance).
Both groups increased in mean telomerase activity over 4 months in intent-to-treat and treatment efficacy analyses (p < 0.001). Nonsignificant trends showed that greater attendance was associated with increases in telomerase, and telomerase increases were 18% higher among ‘as treated’ participants compared to controls. Across groups, changes in chronic stress, anxiety, dietary restraint, dietary fat intake, cortisol, and glucose were negatively correlated with changes in telomerase activity. In exploratory analyses, decreases in dietary fat intake partially mediated the association between dietary restraint and telomerase activity with marginal significance.
While there was no clear effect of the intervention on telomerase activity, there was a striking pattern of correlations between improvements in psychological distress, eating behavior, and metabolic health and increases in telomerase activity. These findings suggest that telomerase activity may be in part regulated by levels of both psychological and metabolic stress.
Stress; Anxiety; Mindfulness; Dietary restraint; Telomerase; Cell aging; Cortisol
Long-term exposure to stress and its physiological mediators, in particular cortisol, may lead to impaired telomere maintenance. In this study, we examine if greater cortisol responses to an acute stressor and/or dysregulated patterns of daily cortisol secretion are associated with shorter telomere length. Twenty-three post-menopausal women comprising caregivers for dementia partners (n=14) and age- and BMI-matched non-caregivers provided home sampling of cortisol–saliva samples at waking, 30 min after waking, and bedtime, and a 12-hour overnight urine collection. They were also exposed to an acute laboratory stressor throughout which they provided saliva samples. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from a fasting blood sample and assayed for telomere length. As hypothesized, greater cortisol responses to the acute stressor were associated with shorter telomeres, as were higher overnight urinary free cortisol levels and flatter daytime cortisol slopes. While robust physiological responses to acute stress serve important functions, the long-term consequences of frequent high stress reactivity may include accelerated telomere shortening.
Cortisol; Allostasis; Allostatic load; Telomere; Cellular aging; Stress; HPA axis
Hostility is associated with a significantly increased risk of age-related disease and mortality, yet the pathophysiological mechanisms involved remain unclear. Here we investigated the hypothesis that hostility might impact health by promoting cellular aging.
We tested the relationship between cynical hostility and two known markers of cellular aging, leukocyte telomere length (TL) and leukocyte telomerase activity (TA), in 434 men and women from the Whitehall II cohort.
High-hostile men had significantly shorter leukocyte TL than their low-hostile counterparts. They also had elevated leukocyte TA, with a significantly increased likelihood of having both short TL and high TA, compared with low-hostile individuals.
Because telomerase is known to counteract telomere shortening by synthesizing telomeric DNA repeats, particularly in the context of shortened telomeres, heightened TA might represent a compensatory response in high-hostile individuals. The relationship between hostility and disease is stronger in men than in women, and men generally have a shorter life expectancy than women. Our findings suggest that telomere attrition might represent a novel mechanism mediating the detrimental effects of hostility on men's health.
Aging; gender; hostility; psychological stress; telomerase activity; telomere length
Longer duration of reproductive years of life and thus greater exposure to endogenous estrogen may be associated with a lower risk of age-related diseases in women. The present study examined the relationship between estimated endogenous estrogen exposure and telomere length (TL) and telomerase activity, two biomarkers of cellular aging, in a sample of postmenopausal women at risk for cognitive decline. Telomere length was measured using a quantitative PCR method and telomerase activity by TRAP (Telomere-Repeats Amplification Protocol) assay in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Study subjects were 53 postmenopausal women (35 with natural and 18 with surgical menopause) receiving hormone therapy (HT) for at least one year or longer. Length of reproductive years of life, computed as the difference between age at menopause and age at menarche, was used as a proxy of duration of exposure to endogenous estrogen. Length of time on HT was the measure used for duration of exogenous estrogen exposure. We found that longer endogenous estrogen exposure was associated with greater TL (standardized β=0.06, Wald χ2=3.7, p=0.04) and with lower telomerase activity (standardized β=−0.09, Wald χ2=5.0, p=0.03). Length of reproductive years was also inversely associated with the combination of short TL and high telomerase (OR=0.78, 95% CI: 0.63, 0.97, p=0.02). Length of HT use was not associated with TL or telomerase activity in this study. The results suggest that the endogenous estrogens may be associated with deceleration of cellular aging. This is the first study to examine associations between endogenous estrogens, telomere length and telomerase activity.
Section: Regulatory Systems
estrogen exposure; hormone therapy; telomere; telomerase; cardiovascular disease; cognition
Telomeres are the DNA–protein complexes that protect the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. The cellular enzyme telomerase counteracts telomere shortening by adding telomeric DNA. A growing body of literature links shorter telomere length and lower telomerase activity with various age-related diseases and earlier mortality. Thus, leukocyte telomere length (LTL) and telomerase activity are emerging both as biomarkers and contributing factors for age-related diseases. However, no clinical study has directly examined telomerase activity and telomere length in different lymphocyte subtypes isolated from the same donors, which could offer insight into the summary measure of leukocyte telomere maintenance.
We report the first quantitative data in humans examining both levels of telomerase activity and telomere length in four lymphocyte subpopulations from the same donors—CD4+, CD8+CD28+ and CD8+CD28− T cells and B cells, as well as total PBMCs—in a cohort of healthy women. We found that B cells had the highest telomerase activity and longest telomere length; CD4+ T cells had slightly higher telomerase activity than CD8+CD28+ T cells, and similar telomere length. Consistent with earlier reports that CD8+CD28−T cells are replicatively senescent cells, they had the lowest telomerase activity and shortest telomere length. In addition, a higher percentage of CD8+CD28− T cells correlated with shorter total PBMC TL (r = −0.26, p = 0.05). Interestingly, telomerase activities of CD4+ and CD8+CD28+ T cells from the same individual were strongly correlated (r = 0.55, r < 0.001), indicating possible common mechanisms for telomerase activity regulation in these two cell subtypes. These data will facilitate the understanding of leukocyte aging and its relationship to human health.
Telomere; Telomerase; Immune cells; Aging; Aging-related diseases
Short telomere length (TL) is an independent predictor of mortality in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). However, the relationship between physical fitness and TL has not been explored in these patients.
In a cross sectional study of 944 outpatients with stable CHD, we performed exercise treadmill testing, assessed self-reported physical activity, and measured leukocyte TL using a quantitative PCR assay. We used generalized linear models to calculate mean TL (T/S ratio), and logistic regression models to compare the proportion of patients with short TL (defined as the lowest quartile), among participants with low, medium and high physical fitness, based on metabolic equivalent tasks achieved (METs).
229 participants had low physical fitness (<5 METS), 334 had moderate physical fitness (5–7 METS), and 381 had high physical fitness (>7 METS). Mean ± T/S ratio ranged from 0.86±0.21 (5349±3781 base pairs) in those with low physical fitness to 0.95±0.23 (5566±3829 base pairs) in those with high physical fitness (p<.001). This association remained strong after adjustment for numerous patient characteristics, including measures of cardiac disease severity and physical inactivity (p = 0.005). Compared with participants with high physical fitness, those with low physical fitness had 2-fold greater odds of having TL in the lowest quartile (OR 2.39, 95% CI 1.60–3.55; p<.001). This association was similar after multivariable adjustment (OR 1.94, 95%CI, 1.18–3.20; p = 0.009). Self-reported physical inactivity was associated with shorter TL in unadjusted analyses, but not after multivariable adjustment.
We found that worse objectively-assessed physical fitness is associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length in patients with CHD. The clinical implications of this association deserve further study.
Background. Accumulating evidence supports leukocyte telomere length (LTL) as a biological marker of cellular aging. Poor sleep is a risk factor for age-related disease; however, the extent to which sleep accounts for variation in LTL is unknown. Methods. The present study examined associations of self-reported sleep duration, onset latency, and subjective quality with LTL in a community-dwelling sample of 245 healthy women in midlife (aged 49–66 years). Results. While sleep duration and onset latency were unrelated to LTL, women reporting poorer sleep quality displayed shorter LTL (r = 0.14, P = 0.03), independent of age, BMI, race, and income (b = 55.48, SE = 27.43, P = 0.04). When analyses were restricted to participants for whom sleep patterns were chronic, poorer sleep quality predicted shorter LTL independent of covariates and perceived psychological stress. Conclusions. This study provides the first evidence that poor sleep quality explains significant variation in LTL, a marker of cellular aging.
Telomere length/DNA content has been measured in epidemiological/clinical settings with the goal of testing a host of hypotheses related to the biology of human aging, but often the conclusions of these studies have been inconsistent. These inconsistencies may stem from various reasons, including the use of different telomere length measurement techniques. Here, we report the first impartial evaluation of measurements of leukocyte telomere length by Southern blot of the terminal restriction fragments and quantitative PCR (qPCR) of telomere DNA content, expressed as the ratio of telomeric product (T)/single copy gene (S) product. Blind measurements on the same samples from 50 donors were performed in two independent laboratories on two different occasions. Both the qPCR and Southern blots displayed highly reproducible results as shown by r values > 0.9 for the correlations between results obtained by either method on two occasions. The inter-assay CV measurement for the qPCR was 6.45%, while that of the Southern blots was 1.74%. The relation between the results generated by Southern blots versus those generated by qPCR deviated from linearity. We discuss the ramifications of these findings with regard to measurements of telomere length/DNA content in epidemiological/clinical circumstances.
Telomerase activity plays an essential role in cel0l survival, by lengthening telomeres and promoting cell growth and longevity. It is now possible to quantify the low levels of telomerase activity in human leukocytes. Low basal telomerase activity has been related to chronic stress in people and to chronic glucocorticoid exposure in vitro. Here we test whether leukocyte telomerase activity changes under acute psychological stress. We exposed 44 elderly women, including 22 high stress dementia caregivers and 22 matched low stress controls, to a brief laboratory psychological stressor, while examining changes in telomerase activity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). At baseline, caregivers had lower telomerase activity levels than controls, but during stress telomerase activity increased similarly in both groups. Across the entire sample, subsequent telomerase activity increased by 18% one hour after the end of the stressor (p<0.01). The increase in telomerase activity was independent of changes in numbers or percentages of monocytes, lymphocytes, and specific T cell types, although we cannot fully rule out some potential contribution from immune cell redistribution in the change in telomerase activity. Telomerase activity increases were associated with greater cortisol increases in response to the stressor. Lastly, psychological response to the tasks (greater threat perception) was also related to greater telomerase activity increases in controls. These findings uncover novel relationships of dynamic telomerase activity with exposure to an acute stressor, and with two classic aspects of the stress response -- perceived psychological stress and neuroendocrine (cortisol) responses to the stressor.
stress; telomerase activity; cortisol; caregiving; immune cell trafficking
Leukocyte telomere shortening can serve as a biomarker of aging, as telomere length can decline with age and shortening is positively associated with morbidity and mortality. It is therefore important to identify psychological and behavioral factors linked to accelerated telomere shortening. Stress and poorer metabolic health (greater adiposity, insulin resistance, and cortisol) correlate with shorter telomeres. Self reported Dietary Restraint (DR), defined as chronic preoccupation with weight and attempts at restricting food intake, is linked to greater perceived stress, cortisol, weight gain, when assessed in community studies (vs. in weight loss programs).
To test for an association between DR and telomere length in healthy women across a range of ages.
We examined whether DR is linked to telomere length in two samples, one of premenopausal women (aged 20–50; N = 36) and one of postmenopausal women (aged 53–69; N = 20).
In both samples, higher levels of DR were associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length, independent of BMI, smoking, and age.
Chronic DR, as assessed by self-report, may be a risk factor for premature telomere shortening. Potential mechanisms are discussed.
telomere length; dietary restraint; stress; aging; obesity
Depression is associated with an unusually high rate of aging-related illnesses and early mortality. One aspect of “accelerated aging” in depression may be shortened leukocyte telomeres. When telomeres critically shorten, as often occurs with repeated mitoses or in response to oxidation and inflammation, cells may die. Indeed, leukocyte telomere shortening predicts early mortality and medical illnesses in non-depressed populations. We sought to determine if leukocyte telomeres are shortened in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), whether this is a function of lifetime depression exposure and whether this is related to putative mediators, oxidation and inflammation.
Leukocyte telomere length was compared between 18 unmedicated MDD subjects and 17 controls and was correlated with lifetime depression chronicity and peripheral markers of oxidation (F2-isoprostane/Vitamin C ratio) and inflammation (IL-6). Analyses were controlled for age and sex.
The depressed group, as a whole, did not differ from the controls in telomere length. However, telomere length was significantly inversely correlated with lifetime depression exposure, even after controlling for age (p<0.05). Average telomere length in the depressed subjects who were above the median of lifetime depression exposure (≥9.2 years' cumulative duration) was 281 base pairs shorter than that in controls (p<0.05), corresponding to approximately seven years of “accelerated cell aging.” Telomere length was inversely correlated with oxidative stress in the depressed subjects (p<0.01) and in the controls (p<0.05) and with inflammation in the depressed subjects (p<0.05).
These preliminary data indicate that accelerated aging at the level of leukocyte telomeres is proportional to lifetime exposure to MDD. This might be related to cumulative exposure to oxidative stress and inflammation in MDD. This suggest that telomere shortening does not antedate depression and is not an intrinsic feature. Rather, telomere shortening may progress in proportion to lifetime depression exposure.
Chronic psychological stress is associated with detrimental effects on physical health, and may operate in part through accelerated cell aging, as indexed by shorter telomeres at the ends of chromosomes. However, not all people under stress have distinctly short telomeres, and we examined whether exercise can serve a stress-buffering function. We predicted that chronic stress would be related to short telomere length (TL) in sedentary individuals, whereas in those who exercise, stress would not have measurable effects on telomere shortening.
Methodology and Principal Findings
63 healthy post-menopausal women underwent a fasting morning blood draw for whole blood TL analysis by a quantitative polymerase chain reaction method. Participants completed the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen et al., 1983), and for three successive days reported daily minutes of vigorous activity. Participants were categorized into two groups-sedentary and active (those getting Centers for Disease Control-recommended daily amount of activity). The likelihood of having short versus long telomeres was calculated as a function of stress and exercise group, covarying age, BMI and education. Logistic regression analyses revealed a significant moderating effect of exercise. As predicted, among non-exercisers a one unit increase in the Perceived Stress Scale was related to a 15-fold increase in the odds of having short telomeres (p<.05), whereas in exercisers, perceived stress appears to be unrelated to TL (B = −.59, SE = .78, p = .45).
Vigorous physical activity appears to protect those experiencing high stress by buffering its relationship with TL. We propose pathways through which physical activity acts to buffer stress effects.
Increased dietary intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids is associated with prolonged survival in patients with coronary heart disease. However, the mechanisms underlying this protective effect are poorly understood.
To investigate the association of omega-3 fatty acid blood levels with temporal changes in telomere length, an emerging marker of biological age.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Prospective cohort study of 608 ambulatory outpatients in California with stable coronary artery disease recruited from the Heart and Soul Study between September 2000 and December 2002 and followed up to January 2009 (median, 6.0 years; range, 5.0-8.1 years).
Main Outcome Measures
We measured leukocyte telomere length at baseline and again after 5 years of follow-up. Multivariable linear and logistic regression models were used to investigate the association of baseline levels of omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) with subsequent change in telomere length.
Individuals in the lowest quartile of DHA3EPA experienced the fastest rate of telomere shortening (0.13 telomere-to-single-copy gene ratio [T/S] units over 5 years; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.09-0.17), whereas those in the highest quartile experienced the slowest rate of telomere shortening (0.05 T/S units over 5 years; 95% CI, 0.02-0.08; P<.001 for linear trend across quartiles). Levels of DHA+EPA were associated with less telomere shortening before (unadjusted β coefficient × 10−3=0.06; 95% CI, 0.02-0.10) and after (adjusted β coefficient × 10−3=0.05; 95% CI, 0.01-0.08) sequential adjustment for established risk factors and potential confounders. Each 1-SD increase in DHA+EPA levels was associated with a 32% reduction in the odds of telomere shortening (adjusted odds ratio, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.47-0.98).
Among this cohort of patients with coronary artery disease, there was an inverse relationship between baseline blood levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids and the rate of telomere shortening over 5 years.
Leukocyte telomere length, an emerging marker of biological age, has been shown to predict cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, the natural history of telomere length in patients with coronary artery disease has not been studied. We sought to investigate the longitudinal trajectory of telomere length, and to identify the independent predictors of telomere shortening, in persons with coronary artery disease.
In a prospective cohort study of 608 individuals with stable coronary artery disease, we measured leukocyte telomere length at baseline, and again after five years of follow-up. We used multivariable linear and logistic regression models to identify the independent predictors of leukocyte telomere trajectory. Baseline and follow-up telomere lengths were normally distributed. Mean telomere length decreased by 42 base pairs per year (p<0.001). Three distinct telomere trajectories were observed: shortening in 45%, maintenance in 32%, and lengthening in 23% of participants. The most powerful predictor of telomere shortening was baseline telomere length (OR per SD increase = 7.6; 95% CI 5.5, 10.6). Other independent predictors of telomere shortening were age (OR per 10 years = 1.6; 95% CI 1.3, 2.1), male sex (OR = 2.4; 95% CI 1.3, 4.7), and waist-to-hip ratio (OR per 0.1 increase = 1.4; 95% CI 1.0, 2.0).
Leukocyte telomere length may increase as well as decrease in persons with coronary artery disease. Telomere length trajectory is powerfully influenced by baseline telomere length, possibly suggesting negative feedback regulation. Age, male sex, and abdominal obesity independently predict telomere shortening. The mechanisms and reversibility of telomeric aging in cardiovascular disease deserve further study.
Mutation of the template region in the RNA component of telomerase can cause incorporation of mutant DNA sequences at telomeres. We made all 63 mutant sequence combinations at template positions 474–476 of the yeast telomerase RNA, TLC1. Mutants contained faithfully incorporated template mutations, as well as misincorporated sequences in telomeres, a phenotype not previously reported for Saccharomyces cerevisiae telomerase template mutants. Although growth rates and telomere profiles varied widely among the tlc1 mutants, chromosome separation and segregation were always aberrant. The mutants showed defects in sister chromatid separation at centromeres as well as telomeres, suggesting activation of a cell cycle checkpoint. Deletion of the DNA damage response genes DDC1, MEC3, or DDC2/SML1 failed to restore chromosome separation in the tlc1 template mutants. These results suggest that mutant telomere sequences elicit a checkpoint that is genetically distinct from those activated by deletion of telomerase or DNA damage.
PpLSU3, a mobile group I intron found in the ribosomal RNA genes of Physarum polycephalum, encodes the I-PpoI homing endonuclease. This enzyme represents one of the rare cases in nature where a protein is expressed from an RNA polymerase I transcript. Our previous results showed that the full length intron, but not a further processed species, is the messenger for I-PpoI, implying a role of the untranslated region (UTR) in gene expression. To study the function of the 3′-UTR in expression of the endonuclease and in splicing of the intron, we replaced the I-PpoI gene in PpLSU3 with the gene for the α-fragment of Escherichia coli β-galactosidase, and then integrated this chimeric intron into all the chromosomal rDNA repeats of yeast. The resulting cells synthesized functional α-fragment, as evidenced by a complementation assay analogous to that used in E.coli. The β-galactosidase activity thus provides an unusual and potentially valuable readout for Pol I transcription from chromosomal rDNA. This is the first example in which a eucaryotic homing endonuclease gene has been successfully replaced by a heterologous gene. Using deletion mutagenesis and a novel randomization approach with the α-fragment as a reporter, we found that a small segment of the 3′-UTR dramatically influences both splicing and protein expression.