DNA methylation-based estimator of telomere length

Ake T. Lu, Anne Seeboth, Pei Chien Tsai, Dianjianyi Sun, Austin Quach, Alex P. Reiner, Charles Kooperberg, Luigi Ferrucci, Lifang Hou, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Yun Li, Sarah E. Harris, Janie Corley, Adele Taylor, Ian J. Deary, James D. Stewart, Eric A. Whitsel, Themistocles L. Assimes, Wei Chen, Shengxu LiMassimo Mangino, Jordana T. Bell, James G. Wilson, Abraham Aviv, Riccardo E. Marioni, Kenneth Raj, Steve Horvath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Telomere length (TL) is associated with several aging-related diseases. Here, we present a DNA methylation estimator of TL (DNAmTL) based on 140 CpGs. Leukocyte DNAmTL is applicable across the entire age spectrum and is more strongly associated with age than measured leukocyte TL (LTL) (r ~-0.75 for DNAmTL versus r ~ -0.35 for LTL). Leukocyte DNAmTL outperforms LTL in predicting: i) time-to-death (p=2.5E-20), ii) time-to-coronary heart disease (p=6.6E-5), iii) time-to-congestive heart failure (p=3.5E-6), and iv) association with smoking history (p=1.21E-17). These associations are further validated in large scale methylation data (n=10k samples) from the Framingham Heart Study, Women's Health Initiative, Jackson Heart Study, InChianti, Lothian Birth Cohorts, Twins UK, and Bogalusa Heart Study. Leukocyte DNAmTL is also associated with measures of physical fitness/functioning (p=0.029), age-at-menopause (p=0.039), dietary variables (omega 3, fish, vegetable intake), educational attainment (p=3.3E-8) and income (p=3.1E-5). Experiments in cultured somatic cells show that DNAmTL dynamics reflect in part cell replication rather than TL per se. DNAmTL is not only an epigenetic biomarker of replicative history of cells, but a useful marker of age-related pathologies that are associated with it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5895-5923
Number of pages29
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


  • Aging
  • DNA methylation
  • Molecular biomarker
  • Telomere length


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