Associations between DNA methylation and telomere length during early life: insight from wild zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)

Sheldon, E. L., Ton, R., Boner, W. , Monaghan, P. , Raveh, S., Schrey, A. W. and Griffith, S. C. (2022) Associations between DNA methylation and telomere length during early life: insight from wild zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Molecular Ecology, 31(23), pp. 6261-6272. (doi: 10.1111/mec.16187) (PMID:34551154)

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Telomere length and DNA methylation (DNAm) are two promising biomarkers of biological age. Environmental factors and life history traits are known to affect variation in both these biomarkers, especially during early life, yet surprisingly little is known about their reciprocal association, especially in natural populations. Here, we explore how variation in DNAm, growth rate, and early-life conditions are associated with telomere length changes during development. We tested these associations by collecting data from wild, nestling zebra finches in the Australian desert. We found that increases in the level of DNAm were negatively correlated with telomere length changes across early life. We also confirm previously documented effects of post hatch growth rate and clutch size on telomere length in a natural ecological context for a species that has been extensively studied in the laboratory. However, we did not detect any effect of ambient temperature during developmental on telomere length dynamics. We also found that the absolute telomere length of wild zebra finches, measured using the in-gel TRF method, was similar to that of captive birds. Our findings highlight exciting new opportunities to link and disentangle potential relationships between DNA based biomarkers of aging, and of physiological reactions to environmental change.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The authors would like to acknowledge funding from an Australian Research Council grant (DP170103619) to SCG and PM.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Boner, Dr Winnie and Raveh, Dr Shirley and Monaghan, Professor Pat
Authors: Sheldon, E. L., Ton, R., Boner, W., Monaghan, P., Raveh, S., Schrey, A. W., and Griffith, S. C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Molecular Ecology
ISSN (Online):1365-294X
Published Online:22 September 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 John Wiley and Sons Ltd
First Published:First published in Molecular Ecology 31(23): 6261-6272
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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