Send to

Choose Destination
Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Jun;18(3):280-5.

The telomere theory of reproductive senescence in women.

Author information

University of South Florida, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Tampa, Florida 33606, USA.



A unifying theory of reproductive aging, based on telomere shortening, is proposed.


Telomere shortening may mediate both 'hits' involved in reproductive aging, that is late exit from the fetal production line and long interval to ovulation in the adult.


As women age egg dysfunction increases, with meiotic nondisjunction, embryonic arrest, apoptosis, and miscarriage. Egg dysfunction results from two 'hits' - reduced formation of chiasmata during fetal oogenesis, and accumulation of reactive oxygen damage during the prolonged interval until ovulation. Late exit from a production line during oogenesis presumably contributes to the first hit. The later insult also involves meiotic spindle abnormalities. Telomeres, repetitive sequences of DNA, cap chromosome ends and dissipate during divisions. Oocytes do not divide, but oogonia do, and telomerase, the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length, is inefficient, and remains inactive in oocytes and embryos until blastocyst stage. Reactive oxygen also shortens telomeres, so the prolonged interval between birth and ovulation would further shorten telomeres from chronic exposure to reactive oxygen. In support of this theory, experimental shortening of telomeres in mice produced a phenotype similar to reproductive aging in women, with abnormal chiasmata, spindles, cell cycles, apoptosis, and genomic instability, and telomere length in human eggs correlated with in-vitro fertilization outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center