Copyright © 2016 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Stress has been associated with biological aging and numerous age-related diseases. This may be due, in part, to accelerated shortening of telomeres, which are critical genomic structures that cap and protect chromosomal ends. Dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis may indirectly contribute to telomere shortening if an animal reacts too strongly or weakly to a stressor, leading to accelerated biological aging. In this study, outbred Rideau-Arcott sheep were stress challenged with Escherichia coli endotoxin and classified as high, middle, or low cortisol responders to investigate a potential relationship between cortisol response and age, and telomere length. In the present study, no association was found between age and telomere length. The study, however, revealed shorter telomeres in high and low cortisol responders compared with the middle cortisol responders, which suggests that health and longevity may be compromised in extreme high- and low-stress-responding sheep.