Christian Werner MD, Tobias Fürster MD, Thomas Widmann MD, Janine Pöss MD, Cristiana Roggia MD, Milad Hanhoun MD, Jürgen Scharhag MD, Nicole Büchner DBBSc, Tim Meyer MD, Wilfried Kindermann MD, Judith Haendeler PhD, Michael Böhm MD, and Ulrich Laufs MD
C57/Bl6 mice were randomized to voluntary running or no running wheel conditions for 3 weeks. Exercise upregulated telomerase activity in the thoracic aorta and in circulating mononuclear cells compared with sedentary controls, increased vascular expression of telomere repeat-binding factor 2 and Ku70, and reduced the expression of vascular apoptosis regulators such as cell-cycle-checkpoint kinase 2, p16, and p53. Mice preconditioned by voluntary running exhibited a marked reduction in lipopolysaccharide-induced aortic endothelial apoptosis. Transgenic mouse studies showed that endothelial nitric oxide synthase and telomerase reverse transcriptase synergize to confer endothelial stress resistance after physical activity. To test the significance of these data in humans, telomere biology in circulating leukocytes of young and middle-aged track and field athletes was analyzed. Peripheral blood leukocytes isolated from endurance athletes showed increased telomerase activity, expression of telomere-stabilizing proteins, and downregulation of cell-cycle inhibitors compared with untrained individuals. Long-term endurance training was associated with reduced leukocyte telomere erosion compared with untrained controls.