The role of telomeres and vitamin D in cellular aging and age-related diseases.
Aging is a complex biological process characterized by a progressive decline of organ functions leading to an increased risk of age-associated diseases and death. Decades of intensive research have identified a range of molecular and biochemical pathways contributing to aging. However, many aspects regarding the regulation and interplay of these pathways are insufficiently understood. Telomere dysfunction and genomic instability appear to be of critical importance for aging at a cellular level. For example, age-related diseases and premature aging syndromes are frequently associated with telomere shortening. Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences that together with the associated sheltrin complex protect the ends of chromosomes and maintain genomic stability. Recent studies suggest that micronutrients, such as vitamin D, folate and vitamin B12, are involved in telomere biology and cellular aging. In particular, vitamin D is important for a range of vital cellular processes including cellular differentiation, proliferation and apoptosis. As a result of the multiple functions of vitamin D it has been speculated that vitamin D might play a role in telomere biology and genomic stability. Here we review existing knowledge about the link between telomere biology and cellular aging with a focus on the role of vitamin D. We searched the literature up to November 2014 for human studies, animal models and in vitro experiments that addressed this topic.