PloS one

Expression of telomerase and telomere length are unaffected by either age or limb regeneration in Danio rerio.

PMID 19893630


The zebrafish is an increasingly popular model for studying many aspects of biology. Recently, ztert, the zebrafish homolog of the mammalian telomerase gene has been cloned and sequenced. In contrast to humans, it has been shown that the zebrafish maintains telomerase activity for much of its adult life and has remarkable regenerative capacity. To date, there has been no longitudinal study to assess whether this retention of telomerase activity equates to the retention of chromosome telomere length through adulthood. We have systematically analyzed individual organs of zebrafish with regard to both telomere length and telomerase activity at various time points in its adult life. Heart, gills, kidney, spleen, liver, and intestine were evaluated at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 2 years of age by Southern blot analysis. We found that telomeres do not appreciably shorten throughout the lifespan of the zebrafish in any organ. In addition, there was little difference in telomere lengths between organs. Even when cells were under the highest pressure to divide after fin-clipping experiments, telomere length was unaffected. All aged (2 year old) tissues examined also expressed active amounts of telomerase activity as assessed by TRAP assay. In contrast to several other species including humans, the retention of lifelong telomerase and telomeres, as we have reported here, would be necessary in the zebrafish to maintain its tremendous regenerative capacity. The ongoing study of the zebrafish's ability to maintain telomerase activity may be helpful in unraveling the complexity involved in the maintenance (or lack thereof) of telomeres in other species such the mouse or human.