Publication details

Lifespan and telomere length variation across populations of wild-derived African killifish



Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Molecular Ecology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords comparative biology; fish; inter-population gradient; sex differences telomeres
Description Telomeres and telomerase prevent the continuous erosion of chromosome-ends caused by lifelong cell division. Shortened telomeres are associated with age-related pathologies. While short telomere length is positively correlated with increased lethality at the individual level, in comparisons across species short telomeres are associated with long (and not short) lifespans. Here, we tested this contradiction between individual and evolutionary patterns in telomere length using African annual killifish. We analysed lifespan and telomere length in a set of captive strains derived from well-defined wild populations of Nothobranchius furzeri and its sister species, N. kadleci, from sites along a strong gradient of aridity which ultimately determines maximum natural lifespan. Overall, males were shorter-lived than females, and also had shorter telomeres. Male lifespan (measured in controlled laboratory conditions) was positively associated with the amount of annual rainfall in the site of strain origin. However, fish from wetter climates had shorter telomeres. In addition, individual fish which grew largest over the juvenile period possessed shorter telomeres at the onset of adulthood. This demonstrates that individual condition and environmentally-driven selection indeed modulate the relationship between telomere length and lifespan in opposite directions, validating the existence of inverse trends within a single taxon. Intraindividual heterogeneity of telomere length (capable to detect very short telomeres) was not associated with mean telomere length, suggesting that the shortest telomeres are controlled by regulatory pathways other than those that determine mean telomere length. The substantial variation in telomere length between strains from different environments identifies killifish as a powerful system in understanding the adaptive value of telomere length.

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