Telomere length in reproduction

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Abstract

Telomeres, noncoding hexameric tandem repeats located at the ends of chromosomes, maintain chromosome stability and genome integrity. These guanine-rich repeats are highly conserved during evolution, and their role is dependent on their length and structure. They have multiple functions, including regulating the reproductive lifespan by mediating synapsis and homologous recombination of the chromosomes. Short telomeres result in meiotic arrest, segregation abnormalities and dysjunction, which lead to an increased incidence of aneuploid germ cells. In addition, shortened telomeres in men result in apoptosis of germ cells, whereas, in women, they result in meiotic arrest. In somatic cells, telomere shortening occurs at each consecutive round of replication, which induces senescence in vitro and in vivo. However there is a 2-fold elongation of telomeres during spermatogenesis. Spermatozoa, are terminally differentiated cells, have longer telomeres than spermatogonia and pachytene spermatocytes. In addition to genetic factors, lifestyle factors and psychological stress also play crucial role in modulating telomere length. Because not much is known about its role in reproduction, we focused this review on the function, structure and length dynamics of the telomere in the reproductive process.

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