The genetic basis of natural variation in Caenorhabditis elegans telomere length

Daniel E. Cook, Stefan Zdraljevic, Robyn E. Tanny, Beomseok Seo, David D. Riccardi, Luke M. Noble, Matthew V. Rockman, Mark J. Alkema, Christian Braendle, Jan E. Kammenga, John Wang, Leonid Kruglyak, Marie Anne Félix, Junho Lee, Erik C. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Telomeres are involved in the maintenance of chromosomes and the prevention of genome instability. Despite this central importance, significant variation in telomere length has been observed in a variety of organisms. The genetic determinants of telomerelength variation and their effects on organismal fitness are largely unexplored. Here, we describe natural variation in telomere length across the Caenorhabditis elegans species. We identify a large-effect variant that contributes to differences in telomere length. The variant alters the conserved oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide-binding fold of protection of telomeres 2 (POT-2), a homolog of a human telomere-capping shelterin complex subunit. Mutations within this domain likely reduce the ability of POT-2 to bind telomeric DNA, thereby increasing telomere length. We find that telomere-length variation does not correlate with offspring production or longevity in C. elegans wild isolates, suggesting that naturally long telomeres play a limited role in modifying fitness phenotypes in C. elegans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-383
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2016


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • QTL
  • Shelterin
  • Telomere length
  • Whole-genome sequence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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