Intergenerational effects on offspring telomere length: interactions among maternal age, stress exposure and offspring sex

Marasco, V., Boner, W. , Griffiths, K., Heidinger, B. and Monaghan, P. (2019) Intergenerational effects on offspring telomere length: interactions among maternal age, stress exposure and offspring sex. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, 286(1912), 20191845. (doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.1845) (PMID:31575358) (PMCID:PMC6790762)

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Abstract

Offspring produced by older parents often have reduced longevity, termed the Lansing effect. Because adults usually have similar-aged mates, it is difficult to separate effects of maternal and paternal age, and environmental circumstances are also likely to influence offspring outcomes. The mechanisms underlying the Lansing effect are poorly understood. Variation in telomere length and loss, particularly in early life, is linked to longevity in many vertebrates, and therefore changes in offspring telomere dynamics could be very important in this context. We examined the effect of maternal age and environment on offspring telomere length in zebra finches. We kept mothers under either control (ad libitum food) or more challenging (unpredictable food) circumstances and experimentally minimized paternal age and mate choice effects. Irrespective of the maternal environment, there was a substantial negative effect of maternal age on offspring telomere length, evident in longitudinal and cross-sectional comparisons (average of 39% shorter). Furthermore, in young mothers, sons reared by challenged mothers had significantly shorter telomere lengths than sons reared by control mothers. This effect disappeared when the mothers were old, and was absent in daughters. These findings highlight the importance of telomere dynamics as inter-generational mediators of the evolutionary processes determining optimal age-specific reproductive effort and sex allocation.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was funded by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award (no. 268926) to P.M. V.M. was supported by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the time of writing (no. 704582).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Boner, Dr Winnie and Marasco, Dr Valeria and Monaghan, Professor Pat and Griffiths, Mrs Kate
Authors: Marasco, V., Boner, W., Griffiths, K., Heidinger, B., and Monaghan, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:0962-8452
ISSN (Online):1471-2954
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences 286(1912):)20191845
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
164901The ecological significance of telomere dynamics:environments, individuals and inheritancePatricia MonaghanEuropean Research Council (ERC)20100317/FP7-268926Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine