Telomere shortening occurs with human aging in many organs and tissues and is accelerated by rapid cell turnover and oxidative injury. To clarify the clinical importance of telomere shortening in colonic mucosa in ulcerative colitis (UC), we measured average telomere length using quantitative real-time PCR in non-neoplastic colonic mucosa in UC patients and assessed its relationship to various clinical subtypes. Relative telomere length in genomic DNA was measured in colonic biopsies obtained from rectal inflammatory mucosa from 86 UC patients as well as paired non-inflammatory proximal colonic mucosae from 10 patients. Data were correlated with various clinical phenotypes. In paired samples, average relative telomere length of rectal inflammatory mucosa was shortened compared to normal appearing proximal colon in eight out of ten cases (p = 0.01). Telomere length shortening was significantly associated with more severe Mayo endoscopic subscore (p < 0.0001) and cases needing surgery due to toxic megacolon or cancer occurrence (p = 0.043). When the severe clinical phenotype was defined as having at least one of following phenotypes, more than two times of hospitalization, highest Mayo endoscopic subscore, steroid dependent, refractory, or needing operation, average relative telomere length was significantly shortened in the same phenotypes than the others (p = 0.003). Telomere shortening is associated with more severe clinical phenotypes of UC, reflecting severe inflammatory state in the colonic mucosa.
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