loading page

Dietary nucleotides can prevent glucocorticoid-induced telomere attrition in a fast-growing wild vertebrate
  • +4
  • Stefania Casagrande,
  • Jasmine Loveland,
  • Marlene Oefele,
  • Winnie Boner,
  • Sara Lupi,
  • Antoine Stier,
  • Michaela Hau
Stefania Casagrande
Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Jasmine Loveland
University of Vienna
Author Profile
Marlene Oefele
Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence
Author Profile
Winnie Boner
University of Glasgow
Author Profile
Sara Lupi
Western University Faculty of Science
Author Profile
Antoine Stier
Université de Strasbourg
Author Profile
Michaela Hau
Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence
Author Profile


Telomeres are chromosome protectors that shorten during cell replication and in stressful conditions. Developing individuals are susceptible to telomere erosion when their growth is fast and resources limited. This is critical because the rate of telomere attrition in early life is linked to health and life span of adults. The metabolic telomere attrition hypothesis (MeTA) suggests that telomere dynamics can respond to biochemical signals conveying information about the organism’s energetic state. Among these signals are glucocorticoids (hormones that promote catabolic processes, potentially impairing costly telomere maintenance) and nucleotides, which activate anabolic pathways though the cellular enzyme target of rapamycin (TOR) preventing telomere attrition. During the energetically demanding growth phase, the regulation of telomeres in response to two contrasting signals—one promoting telomere maintenance and the other inducing attrition—provides an ideal experimental setting to test MeTa. We studied nestlings of a rapidly developing free-living passerine, the great tit (Parus major), that either received glucocorticoids (Cort-chicks), nucleotides (Nuc-chicks), or a combination of both (NucCort-chicks) all compared with controls (Cnt-chicks). Contrary to Cort-chicks, which showed telomere attrition, NucCort-chicks, did not. NucCort-chicks was the only group showing increased gene expression of telo2 (proxy for TOR activation), of mitochondrial enzymes linked to ATP production (atp5f1a-atp5f1b-cox6a1-cox4) and a higher efficiency in aerobically producing ATP. NucCort-chicks had also a higher expression of telomere maintenance genes (trf2) and of enzymatic antioxidant genes (gpx4-sod1). The findings show that nucleotides availability is crucial for preventing telomere erosion during fast growth in stressful environments.
11 May 2023Submitted to Molecular Ecology
12 May 2023Submission Checks Completed
12 May 2023Assigned to Editor
12 May 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
21 May 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
30 Jun 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
19 Jul 20231st Revision Received
21 Jul 2023Submission Checks Completed
21 Jul 2023Assigned to Editor
21 Jul 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
09 Aug 2023Editorial Decision: Accept