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Biol Lett. 2007 Apr 22;3(2):128-30.

Stress impacts telomere dynamics.

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Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Savoyenstrasse 1a, 1160 Vienna, Austria.


Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes that control genomic integrity but appear to become shorter with age and stress. To test whether stress causes telomere attrition, we exposed the offspring of wild-caught house mice (Mus musculus) to stressful conditions and examined the changes in telomere length over six months. We found that females exposed to males and reproductive stress (either with or without crowding) had significantly shorter telomeres than controls, and males exposed to crowding stress had shorter telomeres than males that were not crowded. Our results indicate that stress alters telomere dynamics, causing attrition and hindering restoration, and these effects are sex dependent. Telomeres may thus provide a biomarker for assessing an individual's cumulative exposure or ability to cope with stressful conditions.

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