Epigenetic inheritance of telomere length in wild birds

Bauch, C., Boonekamp, J. J. , Korsten, P., Mulder, E. and Verhulst, S. (2019) Epigenetic inheritance of telomere length in wild birds. PLoS Genetics, 15(2), e1007827. (doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007827) (PMID:30763308) (PMCID:PMC6375570)

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Telomere length (TL) predicts health and survival across taxa. Variation in TL between individuals is thought to be largely of genetic origin, but telomere inheritance is unusual, because zygotes already express a TL phenotype, the TL of the parental gametes. Offspring TL changes with paternal age in many species including humans, presumably through age-related TL changes in sperm, suggesting an epigenetic inheritance mechanism. However, present evidence is based on cross-sectional analyses, and age at reproduction is confounded with between-father variation in TL. Furthermore, the quantitative importance of epigenetic TL inheritance is unknown. Using longitudinal data of free-living jackdaws Corvus monedula, we show that erythrocyte TL of subsequent offspring decreases with parental age within individual fathers, but not mothers. By cross-fostering eggs, we confirmed the paternal age effect to be independent of paternal age dependent care. Epigenetic inheritance accounted for a minimum of 34% of the variance in offspring TL that was explained by paternal TL. This is a minimum estimate, because it ignores the epigenetic component in paternal TL variation and sperm TL heterogeneity within ejaculates. Our results indicate an important epigenetic component in the heritability of TL with potential consequences for offspring fitness prospects.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding: CB was supported by a research fellowship of the German Research Foundation, DFG (grant no. BA 5422/1-1; www.dfg.de). JJB was funded by a grant of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, NWO (grant no. 823.01.009; www.nwo.nl) awarded to SV.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Boonekamp, Dr Jelle
Creator Roles:
Boonekamp, J. J.Investigation, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Bauch, C., Boonekamp, J. J., Korsten, P., Mulder, E., and Verhulst, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:PLoS Genetics
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN (Online):1553-7404
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Bauch et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS Genetics 15(2): e1007827
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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