Telomere dynamics and cellular senescence: an emerging field in environmental and occupational toxicology

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There has been a steady output of epidemiological studies linking environmental and occupational exposures to altered telomere length, showing mainly positive associations with persistent organic pollutants, inverse association with cadmium and inconsistent results with arsenic and lead. A bell-shaped dose-response relationship has been observed for ionizing radiation with telomere shortening at a low dose. Long-term air pollution is associated with telomere shortening, whereas the short-term exposure studies have shown mixed results. There are surprisingly few studies on telomere dynamics in animals. Studies on telomere dynamics and senescence in target tissues of animal strains used in toxicology are warranted. Cell culture studies on ionizing radiation have shown mixed results on telomere length, whereas both telomerase activity and cellular senescence are increased. Studies on persistent organic pollutants indicate telomere shortening, decreased telomerase activity and increased cellular senescence. Cell culture studies on heavy metals and air pollution particles are inconsistent. There is no coherent relationship between exposures, oxidative stress, telomere length, telomerase activity and cellular senescence in experimental studies on environmental or occupational exposures. This may be due to differences in exposure levels (including dose rate), exposure time and models (i.e. cell types and animal strains). Guidelines are needed for best practices on assays for telomere dynamics and cellular senescence in toxicology. However, it deserves notice that experimental studies in cells and animals have revealed important information on the effects of environmental and occupational agents on the maintenance of telomeres and cellular senescence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Reviews in Toxicology
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)761-788
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 210983255