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Neurobiol Aging. 2003 Jan-Feb;24(1):77-84.

Telomere shortening in T cells correlates with Alzheimer's disease status.

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Department of Pathology, UCLA School of Medicine, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Telomeres, the repeated sequences that cap chromosome ends, undergo shortening with each cell division, and therefore serve as markers of a cell's replicative history. In vivo, clonal expansion of T cells during immune responses to both foreign and autoantigens is associated with telomere shortening. To investigate possible immune alterations in Alzheimer's disease (AD) that might impact current vaccine-based therapeutic strategies, we analyzed telomere lengths in immune cell populations from AD patients. Our data show a significant telomere shortening in PBMC from AD versus controls (P=0.04). Importantly, telomere length of T cells, but not of B cells or monocytes, correlated with AD disease status, measured by Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE) scores (P=0.025). T cell telomere length also inversely correlated with serum levels of the proinflammatory cytokine TNFalpha (a clinical marker of disease status), with the proportion of CD8+ T cells lacking expression of the CD28 costimulatory molecule, and with apoptosis. These findings suggest an immune involvement in AD pathogenesis.

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