, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Telomere and its role in the aging pathways: telomere shortening, cell senescence and mitochondria dysfunction

  • Yukun Zhu
  • Xuewen Liu
  • Xuelu Ding
  • Fei Wang
  • Xin GengEmail author
Review Article


Aging is a biological process characterized by a progressive functional decline in tissues and organs, which eventually leads to mortality. Telomeres, the repetitive DNA repeat sequences at the end of linear eukaryotic chromosomes protecting chromosome ends from degradation and illegitimate recombination, play a crucial role in cell fate and aging. Due to the mechanism of replication, telomeres shorten as cells proliferate, which consequently contributes to cellular senescence and mitochondrial dysfunction. Cells are the basic unit of organismal structure and function, and mitochondria are the powerhouse and metabolic center of cells. Therefore, cellular senescence and mitochondrial dysfunction would result in tissue or organ degeneration and dysfunction followed by somatic aging through multiple pathways. In this review, we summarized the main mechanisms of cellular senescence, mitochondrial malfunction and aging triggered by telomere attrition. Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the aging process may elicit new strategies for improving health and extending lifespan.


Telomere Telomere shortening Cellular senescence Mitochondrial dysfunction Aging 



This project was supported by Chinese National Natural Science Foundation Grant (No. 81671054, No. 81771135), Key project of Tianjin Research Program of Application Foundation and Advanced Technology (No.15JCZDJC35100), Foundation of Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering of the Ministry of Education (No. 201503).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yukun Zhu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xuewen Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xuelu Ding
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fei Wang
    • 3
  • Xin Geng
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Basic Medical SciencesTianjin Medical UniversityTianjinChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Immune Microenvironment and Disease (Ministry of Education)Tianjin Medical UniversityTianjinChina
  3. 3.Department of Neurology, General HospitalTianjin Medical UniversityTianjinChina

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