The Genetic Basis of Natural Variation in Caenorhabditis elegans Telomere Length

D.C. Cook, S. Zdraljevic, R.E. Tanny, B. Seo, D.D. Riccardi, L.M. Noble, M.V. Rockman, M.J. Alkema, C. Braendle, J.E. Kammenga, J. Wang, L. Kruglyak, M.A. Felix, J. Lee, E.C. Andersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


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 telomere-length 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 oligosaccharide/oligonucleotide-binding fold of 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
Pages (from-to)371-383
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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


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