Scientists unlock the molecular secret behind long-lived bat species

February 07, 2018

Scientists have identified part of the molecular mechanism that gives long-lived bat species their extraordinary lifespans compared to other animals. The findings published in the journal Science Advances point to the protective structures at the end of chromosomes, called telomeres.

According to the international team of scientists, in the longest-lived species of bats (Myotis) telomeres don't shorten with age. Whereas in other bats species, humans and other animals they do, causing the age-related breakdown of cells that over the course of a lifetime can drive tissue deterioration and ultimately death.

To conduct the study, researchers took 3-mm wing biopsies from some 500 wild bats from across four species that they captured, marked and released. The samples were flash frozen in liquid nitrogen or desiccated using silica beads, high-molecular DNA was extracted, and change in telomere length was assessed.

"Our results show that telomeres shorten with age in two of the bat species (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and Miniopterus schreibersii), typical of most mammals," says Dr. Nicole Foley of University College Dublin, Ireland, the lead author of the study.

"But in the longest-lived species of bats (Myotis), we did not detect any evidence that their telomeres shorten with age, contrary to all expectations."

To uncover how the long-lived species of bats can maintain their telomeres over time, they compared their genomes with those of 52 other mammals, focusing on 225 genes associated with the maintenance of telomeres.

"Our results suggest that long-lived bats have evolved better mechanisms to prevent and repair age induced cellular damage. In particular two genes ATM, SETX may drive this," says Professor Emma Teeling from University College Dublin, senior author of the scientific paper.

"Bats showed no expression of telomerase but rather, may have evolved a unique process to lengthen their chromosomes without inducing cancer. These are exiting new results that we need to further explore to uncover how bats can remain healthy as time passes."

The results of the study are a first step in helping us to understand the molecular mechanisms bats have evolved that underlie their unusual and long, life-spans.

Studying wild bats in an ageing context may provide exciting new solutions to slow down the ageing process and ultimately extend human health-spans.

The study involving 10 different research and conservation institutes from across five different countries was funded by the European Research Council and included bat biologists from Ireland, France, Portugal, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
-end-


University College Dublin

Related Chromosomes Articles from Brightsurf:

Cancer's dangerous renovations to our chromosomes revealed
Cancer remodels the architecture of our chromosomes so the disease can take hold and spread, new research reveals.

Y chromosomes of Neandertals and Denisovans now sequenced
An international research team led by Martin Petr and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has determined Y chromosome sequences of three Neandertals and two Denisovans.

Female chromosomes offer resilience to Alzheimer's
Women live longer than men with Alzheimer's because their sex chromosomes give them genetic protection from the ravages of the disease.

New protein complex gets chromosomes sorted
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have identified a novel protein complex that regulates Aurora B localization to ensure that chromosomes are correctly separated during cell division.

Breaking up is hard to do (especially for sex chromosomes)
A team of scientists at the Sloan Kettering Institute has discovered how the X and Y chromosomes find one another, break, and recombine during meiosis even though they have little in common.

Exchange of arms between chromosomes using molecular scissors
The CRISPR/Cas molecular scissors work like a fine surgical instrument and can be used to modify genetic information in plants.

How small chromosomes compete with big ones for a cell's attention
Scientists at the Sloan Kettering Institute have solved the puzzle of how small chromosomes ensure that they aren't skipped over during meiosis, the process that makes sperm and egg.

GPS for chromosomes: Reorganization of the genome during development
The spatial arrangement of genetic material within the cell nucleus plays an important role in the development of an organism.

Extra chromosomes in cancers can be good or bad
Extra copies of chromosomes are typical in cancerous tumor cells, but researchers taking a closer look find that some extra copies promote cancer growth while others actually inhibit cancer metastasis.

X marks the spot: recombination in structurally distinct chromosomes
A recent study from the laboratory of Stowers Investigator Scott Hawley, PhD, has revealed more details about how the synaptonemal complex performs its job, including some surprising subtleties in function.

Read More: Chromosomes News and Chromosomes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.