The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Paternal age at conception predicts offspring telomere length in chimpanzees to a greater degree than in humans


1Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, 2Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, University of Washington, 3Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, 4Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah

April 16, 2016 9:00, A 706/707 Add to calendar

Telomeres are repeating non-coding DNA sequences at chromosome ends. Telomere length (TL) is of growing interest to anthropologists because of its potential role in senescence, life history allocations, and intergenerational plasticity. TL declines with age in most human tissues, and shorter TL is thought to cause earlier senescence. Surprisingly, older men have sperm with longer TL; correspondingly, older paternal age at conception (PAC) predicts longer TL in offspring. The multi-generational effect of PAC on TL could contribute to a unique form of transgenerational genetic plasticity that modifies physiologic function in response to a relatively stable cue of recent ancestral experience and behavior.

The PAC-effect has not been examined in any mammals aside from humans. Here we examine the PAC-effect in captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). The PAC-effect on TL is thought to be driven by the continual production of sperm—the same process that drives increased de novo mutations with PAC. Since chimpanzees have 3.4x larger testis than humans and a 50% greater sperm mutation rate with PAC than humans, we predict that the PAC-effect on TL will be greater in chimpanzees than it is in humans. Preliminary analyses of 40 chimpanzees and 144 humans showed increasing TL with PAC in chimpanzees (p=0.007) with a β -1.46x the chimpanzees age-related decline in TL. Consistent with our prediction, the PAC-effect on TL is an estimated 5.67x greater in chimpanzees than in humans (p=0.003). Examination of the influence of grandpaternal age at conception on chimpanzee TL is planned.

NSF (BCS 0717886 to Hawkes); NIH (P51 RR000165 to Yerkes National Primate Research Center; P5 1RR013986 and OD P51 OD011133 to Southwest National Primate Research Center).