Previous studies of telomeres and telomerase have focused mostly on mammals, and data for other vertebrates are limited. We analyzed both telomere length (terminal restriction fragment length) and telomerase activity in a small freshwater teleost fish, the medaka (Oryzias latipes), and found that the telomeres shorten during ageing despite the fact that a considerable amount of telomerase activity is ubiquitously detectable throughout the life of the fish. Since the telomere attrition rate during development was greater than that in adulthood, telomere length is inversely correlated with the increase in body length. The difference in telomere length among medaka individuals was similar to that in humans, and the individual specific differences were evident even at the earliest embryonic stage. Telomerase activity was ubiquitously detectable not only in the body of the embryo but also in the systemic organs of mature individuals throughout their entire life span. These data suggest that telomere attrition during ageing in medaka, which is similar to that in humans, may be a major factor determining their mortality, and that telomere maintenance through strong telomerase activity may be required for the characteristic lifelong continuous growth of this fish. © 2008 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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