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Eur J Hum Genet. 2010 Mar;18(3):385-9. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2009.178. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

Large-scale parent-child comparison confirms a strong paternal influence on telomere length.

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  • 1Department of Medical Biosciences, Pathology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.


Telomere length is documented to have a hereditary component, and both paternal and X-linked inheritance have been proposed. We investigated blood cell telomere length in 962 individuals with an age range between 0 and 102 years. Telomere length correlations were analyzed between parent-child pairs in different age groups and between grandparent-grandchild pairs. A highly significant correlation between the father's and the child's telomere length was observed (r=0.454, P<0.001), independent of the sex of the offspring (father-son: r=0.465, P<0.001; father-daughter: r=0.484, P<0.001). For mothers, the correlations were weaker (mother-child: r=0.148, P=0.098; mother-son: r=0.080, P=0.561; mother-daughter: r=0.297, P=0.013). A positive telomere length correlation was also observed for grandparent-grandchild pairs (r=0.272, P=0.013). Our findings indicate that fathers contribute significantly stronger to the telomere length of the offspring compared with mothers (P=0.012), but we cannot exclude a maternal influence on the daughter's telomeres. Interestingly, the father-child correlations diminished with increasing age (P=0.022), suggesting that nonheritable factors have an impact on telomere length dynamics during life.

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