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Front Zool. 2013 Dec 23;10(1):78. doi: 10.1186/1742-9994-10-78.

Medaka fish exhibits longevity gender gap, a natural drop in estrogen and telomere shortening during aging: a unique model for studying sex-dependent longevity.

Author information

1
State Key Laboratory in Marine Pollution, Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong, 83 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR. bhdwtau@cityu.edu.hk.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Females having a longer telomere and lifespan than males have been documented in many animals. Such linkage however has never been reported in fish. Progressive shortening of telomere length is an important aging mechanism. Mounting in vitro evidence has shown that telomere shortening beyond a critical length triggered replicative senescence or cell death. Estrogen has been postulated as a key factor contributing to maintenance of telomere and sex-dependent longevity in animals. This postulation remains unproven due to the lack of a suitable animal system for testing. Here, we introduce a teleost model, the Japanese medaka Oryzias latipes, which shows promise for research into the molecular mechanism(s) controlling sex difference in aging.

RESULTS:

Using the medaka, we demonstrate for the first time in teleost that (i) sex differences (female > male) in telomere length and longevity also exist in fish, and (ii) a natural, 'menopause'-like decline of plasma estrogen was evident in females during aging. Estrogen levels significantly correlated with telomerase activity as well as telomere length in female organs (not in males), suggesting estrogen could modulate telomere length via telomerase activation in a sex -specific manner. A hypothetical in vivo 'critical' terminal restriction fragment (TRF, representing telomere) length of approximately 4 kb was deduced in medaka liver for prediction of organismal mortality, which is highly comparable with that for human cells. An age conversion model was also established to enable age translation between medaka (in months) and human (in years). These novel tools are useful for future research on comparative biology of aging using medaka.

CONCLUSION:

The striking similarity in estrogen profile between aging female O. latipes and women enables studying the influence of "postmenopausal" decline of estrogen on telomere and longevity without the need of invasive ovariectomy. Medaka fish is advantageous for studying the direct effect of increased estrogen on telomere length and longevity without the breast cancer complications reported in rodents. The findings strongly support the notion that O. latipes is a unique non-mammalian model for validation of estrogenic influence on telomere and longevity in vertebrates. This laboratory model fish is of potential significance for deciphering the ostensibly conserved mechanism(s) of sex-associated longevity in vertebrates.

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