Poster Annual Conference of the Genetics Society of Australasia with the NZ Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Telomere length dimorphism in dasyurid marsupials is based on parental origin of the chromosome (699)

Emory D Ingles 1 , Janine E Deakin 1
  1. University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

The marsupial family of dasyurids is characterised by an extraordinary telomeric feature, telomere length dimorphism. For each chromosome pair, one homologue will have relatively long, and the other relatively short, telomeres, forming a non-random distribution of telomere lengths. As it is always the Y chromosome in males that has the longer telomeres, this led to the hypothesis that telomere length in dasyurids is regulated based on the parental origin of the chromosome, with paternal chromosomes having longer telomeres, and maternal chromosomes having shorter telomeres (the parent-of-origin hypothesis).  We have tested this hypothesis in females of four dasyurid species. The maternal and paternal X chromosomes in these species can be distinguished by different epigenetic marks associated with paternally imprinted X chromosome inactivation, enabling us to investigate if the parental origin of sex chromosomes is linked with telomere length in females as well as males. Epigenetic marker enrichment on the maternally-derived X was observed using immunofluorescence staining, and telomere length was observed by fluorescent in situ hybridisation. We determined that associations between short telomere length and epigenetic enrichment on the maternal X chromosomes were consistent among cells from an individual, and between individuals. Overall, our results are consistent with the parent-of-origin hypothesis, that paternal chromosomes have long telomeres and maternal chromosomes short telomeres. We are currently in the initial stages of the next step towards testing this hypothesis, which is to determine telomere length in germ cells.