Growing old, yet staying young: The role of telomeres in bats' exceptional longevity

Nicole Foley, Graham Hughes, Zixia Huang, Michael Clarke, David Jebb, Conor Whelan, Eric Petit, Frederic Touzalin, Olivier Farcy, Gareth Jones, Roger Ransome, Joanne Kacprzyk, Mary O'Connell, Gerald Kerth, Hugo Rebelo, Luisa Rodriguez, Sebastien Puechmaille, Emma Teeling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)
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Understanding aging is a grand challenge in biology. Exceptionally long-lived animals have mechanisms that underpin extreme longevity. Telomeres are protective nucleotide repeats on chromosome tips that shorten with cell division, potentially limiting life span. Bats are the longest-lived mammals for their size, but it is unknown whether their telomeres shorten. Using >60 years of cumulative mark-recapture field data, we show that telomeres shorten with age in Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and Miniopterus schreibersii, but not in the bat genus with greatest longevity, Myotis. As in humans, telomerase is not expressed in Myotis myotis blood or fibroblasts. Selection tests on telomere maintenance genes show that ATM and SETX, which repair and prevent DNA damage, potentially mediate telomere dynamics in Myotis bats. Twenty-one telomere maintenance genes are differentially expressed in Myotis, of which 14 are enriched for DNA repair, and 5 for alternative telomere-lengthening mechanisms. We demonstrate how telomeres, telomerase, and DNA repair genes have contributed to the evolution of exceptional longevity in Myotis bats, advancing our understanding of healthy aging.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaao0926
Number of pages13
JournalScience Advances
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2018


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