Bioenergetic-endocrine perspective of telomere dynamics

(DFG funded project granted to SC).

The developmental conditions an individual experiences have emerged as a major predictor for it’s adult condition. Accumulating evidence suggests that the footprint of challenging early developmental conditions is embedded in the length of telomeres –protective DNA sequences at the end of each chromosome - which shorten with progressing age and exposure to stress. Many mechanisms underlying telomere attrition, as well as the causal consequences for organisms, are still unresolved. One major phenomenon is the shortening effect that glucocorticoids exert on telomeres at different ontogenetic stages in both humans and animals. The aim of this study is to investigate the physiological routes by which glucocorticoids determine telomere dynamics during growth and the resulting fitness consequences. I am addressing this goal by relating mitochondrial function, gene expression, oxidative stress parameters and behavioral performance to telomere length in wild great tits nestlings.

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