Longitudinal comparative transcriptomics reveals unique mechanisms underlying extended healthspan in bats

Nat Ecol Evol. 2019 Jul;3(7):1110-1120. doi: 10.1038/s41559-019-0913-3. Epub 2019 Jun 10.


Bats are the longest-lived mammals, given their body size. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms of their extended healthspans are poorly understood. To address this question we carried out an eight-year longitudinal study of ageing in long-lived bats (Myotis myotis). We deep-sequenced ~1.7 trillion base pairs of RNA from 150 blood samples collected from known aged bats to ascertain the age-related transcriptomic shifts and potential microRNA-directed regulation that occurred. We also compared ageing transcriptomic profiles between bats and other mammals by analysis of 298 longitudinal RNA sequencing datasets. Bats did not show the same transcriptomic changes with age as commonly observed in humans and other mammals, but rather exhibited a unique, age-related gene expression pattern associated with DNA repair, autophagy, immunity and tumour suppression that may drive their extended healthspans. We show that bats have naturally evolved transcriptomic signatures that are known to extend lifespan in model organisms, and identify novel genes not yet implicated in healthy ageing. We further show that bats' longevity profiles are partially regulated by microRNA, thus providing novel regulatory targets and pathways for future ageing intervention studies. These results further disentangle the ageing process by highlighting which ageing pathways contribute most to healthy ageing in mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera*
  • Humans
  • Longevity
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mammals
  • Transcriptome