Enhanced longevity in tau mutant Syrian hamsters, Mesocricetus auratus

J Biol Rhythms. 2002 Jun;17(3):210-6. doi: 10.1177/07430402017003004.


The single-gene mutation tau in the Syrian hamster shortens the circadian period by about 20% in the homozygous mutant and simultaneously increases the mass-specific metabolic rate by about 20%. Both effects might be expected to lead to a change in longevity. To test such expectations, the life span of male and female hamsters from three genotypes (wild-type, heterozygous, and homozygous tau mutants, all derived from heterozygote crosses to randomize the genetic background) was recorded in constant darkness. Male hamsters lived significantly longer than females: the overall average life span was 96.9 weeks (SE = 2.5, n = 118) for males and 82.0 weeks (SE = 2.1, n = 99) for females. To our surprise, male and female homozygous mutant hamsters lived significantly longer rather than shorter compared to wild-types. For males, the difference between the two genotypes was on average 14%; for females, the difference was 16%. The mortality rate of wild-type males was significantly different from that of homozygous tau males but not different from that of heterozygotes. Overall, survival of wild-type females was statistically distinguishable from both heterozygous and homozygous mutant females. Male and female wild-type hamsters were heavier than homozygote mutants throughout the entire life span, and heterozygous mutants had intermediate weights. There was no correlation between body mass and life span, and the causes of the extended life span in tau mutant hamsters remain unresolved.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • Darkness
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Homozygote
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus / genetics*
  • Mortality
  • Mutation / physiology*
  • Photoperiod
  • Reference Values
  • Temperature
  • tau Proteins / genetics*


  • tau Proteins