Telomere length is indicative of biological age. Shorter telomeres have been associated with several disease and health states. There are inconsistencies throughout the literature amongst relative telomere length measured by quantitative PCR (qPCR) and different extraction methods or kits used. We quantified whole-blood leukocyte telomere length using the telomere to single copy gene (T/S) ratio by qPCR in 20 young (18-25 yrs) men after extracting DNA using three common extraction methods: Lahiri and Nurnberger (high salt) method, PureLink Genomic DNA Mini kit (Life Technologies) and QiaAmp DNA Mini kit (Qiagen). Telomere length differences of DNA extracted from the three extraction methods was assessed by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA).
DNA purity differed between extraction methods used (P=0.01). Telomere length was impacted by the DNA extraction method used (P=0.01). Telomeres extracted using the Lahiri and Nurnberger method (mean T/S ratio: 2.43, range: 1.57-3.02) and PureLink Genomic DNA Mini Kit (mean T/S ratio: 2.57, range: 2.24-2.80) did not differ (P=0.13). Likewise, QiaAmp and Purelink-extracted telomeres were not statistically different (P=0.14). The Lahiri-extracted telomeres, however, were significantly shorter than those extracted using the QiaAmp DNA Mini Kit (mean T/S ratio: 2.71, range: 2.32-3.02; P=0.003). DNA purity was associated with telomere length.
There are discrepancies between the length of leukocyte telomeres extracted from the same individuals according to the DNA extraction method used. DNA purity could be responsible for the discrepancy in telomere length but this will require validation studies. We recommend using the same DNA extraction kit when quantifying leukocyte telomere length by qPCR or when comparing different cohorts to avoid erroneous associations between telomere length and traits of interest.