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Sex- And tissue-specific differences in telomere length in a reptile

Journal article
Authors N. Rollings
C. R. Friesen
C. M. Whittington
Rasmus Johansson
R. Shine
Mats Olsson
Published in Ecology and Evolution
Volume 9
Issue 11
Pages 6211-6219
ISSN 2045-7758
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 6211-6219
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5164
Keywords Ctenophorus pictus, life history, painted dragon lizard, reptiles, sex differences, telomeres
Subject categories Zoology

Abstract

The usage of telomere length (TL) in blood as a proxy for the TL of other tissues relies on the assumption that telomere dynamics across all tissues are similar. However, telomere attrition can be caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) which may vary with metabolic rate, which itself varies across organs depending upon the life history strategy of an organism. Thus, we chose to measure the telomeres of various cell types in juvenile painted dragon lizards, Ctenophorus pictus, given their unusual life history strategy. Individuals typically only experience a single mating season. We measured the TL of male and female dragons using qPCR and observed that TL varied with tissue type and sex. Telomeres of blood cells were longer than those of liver, heart, brain, and spleen, and females had longer telomeres than males. Brain telomeres in males were approximately half the length of those in females. Telomeric attrition in the male brain may be due to the need for rapid learning of reproductive tactics (territory patrol and defense, mate-finding). Significant correlations between the TL of tissue types suggest that blood TL may be a useful proxy for the TL of other tissues. Our comparison of organ-specific telomere dynamics, the first in a reptile, suggests that the usage of blood TL as a proxy requires careful consideration of the life history strategy of the organism. © 2019 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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