Testing for paternal influences on offspring telomere length in a human cohort in the Philippines

Dan T.A. Eisenberg*, Peter H. Rej, Paulita Duazo, Delia Carba, M. Geoffrey Hayes, Christopher W. Kuzawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: Telomeres, emerging biomarkers of aging, are comprised of DNA repeats located at chromosomal ends that shorten with cellular replication and age in most human tissues. In contrast, spermatocyte telomeres lengthen with age. These changes in telomere length (TL) appear to be heritable, as older paternal ages of conception (PAC) predict longer offspring TL. Mouse-model studies raise questions about the potential for effects of paternal experiences on human offspring TL, as they suggest that smoking, inflammation, DNA damage, and stressors all shorten sperm TL. Here, we examined whether factors from the paternal environment predict offspring TL as well as interact with PAC to predict offspring TL. Materials and Methods: Using data from the Philippines, we tested if smoking, psychosocial stressors, or shorter knee height (a measure of early life adversity) predict shorter offspring TL. We also tested if these interacted with PAC in predicting offspring TL. Results: While we did not find the predicted associations, we observed a trend toward fathers with shorter knee height having offspring with longer TL. In addition, we found that knee height interacted with PAC to predict offspring TL. Specifically, fathers with shorter knee heights showed a stronger positive effect of PAC on offspring TL. Discussion: While the reasons for these associations remain uncertain, shorter knee height is characteristic of earlier puberty. Since spermatocyte TL increases with the production of sperm, we speculate that individuals with earlier puberty, and its concomitant commencement of production of sperm, had more time to accumulate longer sperm telomeres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-528
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • epigenetics
  • intergenerational effects
  • intergenerational inertia
  • intergenerational plasticity
  • senescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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