Fetal growth restriction shortens cardiac telomere length, but this is attenuated by exercise in early life

S. A. Booth, G. D. Wadley, F. Z. Marques, M. E. Wlodek, F. J. Charchar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: Fetal and postnatal growth restriction cause a predisposition to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adulthood. Telomeres are repetitive DNAprotein structures that protect chromosome ends, and the loss of these repeats (a reduction in telomere length) is associated with CVD. As exercise preserves telomere length and cardiovascular health, the aim of this study was to determine the effects of growth restriction and exercise training on cardiac telomere length and telomeric genes. 

Methods and results: Pregnant Wistar Kyoto rats underwent bilateral uterine vessel ligation to induce uteroplacental insufficiency and fetal growth restriction (“Restricted”). Sham-operated rats had either intact litters (“Control”) or their litters reduced to five pups with slowed postnatal growth (“Reduced”). Control, Restricted, and Reduced male rats were assigned to Sedentary, Early exercise (5-9 wk of age), or Late exercise (20-24 wk of age) groups. Hearts were excised at 24 wk of age for telomere length and gene expression measurements by quantitative PCR. Growth restriction shortened cardiac telomere length (P < 0.001), but this was rescued by early exercise (P < 0.001). Early and Late exercise increased cardiac weight index (P < 0.001), but neither this nor telomere length was associated with expression of the telomeric genes Tert, Terc, Trf2, Pnuts, or Sirt1. 

Discussion and conclusions: Growth restriction shortens cardiac telomere length, reflecting the cardiac pathologies associated with low birth weight. Exercise in early life may offer long-term protective effects on cardiac telomere length, which could help prevent CVD in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)956-963
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiological Genomics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Cardiac
  • Exercise
  • Genetics
  • Telomeres

Cite this