Telomeres shorten while Tert expression increases during ageing of the short-lived fish Nothobranchius furzeri

Mech Ageing Dev. 2009 May;130(5):290-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2009.01.003. Epub 2009 Jan 22.


Age research in vertebrates is often limited by the longevity of available models. The teleost fish Nothobranchius furzeri has an exceptionally short lifespan with 3.5 months for the laboratory strain GRZ and about 6 months for the wild-derived strain MZM-0403. Here we have investigated telomere length in muscle and skin tissue of young and old fish of both strains using different methods. We found age-dependent telomere shortening in the MZM-0403 strain with the longer lifespan, whereas the short-lived GRZ strain showed no significant telomere shortening with advanced age. Sequencing of the two main telomerase genes Tert and Terc revealed that both genes are highly conserved between the N. furzeri strains while there is little conservation to other fish species and humans. Both genes are ubiquitously expressed in N. furzeri and expression levels of Tert and Terc correlate with telomerase activity in a tissue-specific manner. Unexpectedly, the expression level of Tert is increased in aged muscle and skin tissue of MZM-0403 suggesting that telomeres shorten upon ageing despite increased Tert expression and hence high telomerase activity. We further conclude that the extremely short lifespan of the GRZ strain is not caused by diminished telomerase activity or accelerated telomere shortening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Cyprinodontiformes / genetics
  • Cyprinodontiformes / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Telomerase / genetics*
  • Telomere / enzymology
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*


  • Telomerase