Background: Mammalian species exhibit a wide range of lifespans. To date, a robust and dynamic molecular readout of these lifespan differences has not yet been identified. Recent studies have established the existence of ageing-associated differentially methylated positions (aDMPs) in human and mouse. These are CpG sites at which DNA methylation dynamics show significant correlations with age. We hypothesise that aDMPs are pan-mammalian and are a dynamic molecular readout of lifespan variation among different mammalian species.
Results: A large-scale integrated analysis of aDMPs in six different mammals reveals a strong negative relationship between rate of change of methylation levels at aDMPs and lifespan. This relationship also holds when comparing two different dog breeds with known differences in lifespans. In an ageing cohort of aneuploid mice carrying a complete copy of human chromosome 21, aDMPs accumulate far more rapidly than is seen in human tissues, revealing that DNA methylation at aDMP sites is largely shaped by the nuclear trans-environment and represents a robust molecular readout of the ageing cellular milieu.
Conclusions: Overall, we define the first dynamic molecular readout of lifespan differences among mammalian species and propose that aDMPs will be an invaluable molecular tool for future evolutionary and mechanistic studies aimed at understanding the biological factors that determine lifespan in mammals.
Keywords: Ageing; Epigenetics; Methylation.