Telomeres in Aging Birds

Susan E. Swanberg and Mary E. Delany

This chapter describes the use of avian species (the domestic chicken Gallus domesticus in particular) as model organisms for research in telomere biology and aging. Presented here are key concepts of avian telomere biology including characteristics of the model: the karyotype, telomere arrays, telomere shortening as a measure of the senescence phenotype or organismal aging, and telomerase activity in avian systems, including chicken embryonic stem cells, chicken embryo fibroblasts, the gastrula embryo and DT40 cells. Key methods used to measure telomere shortening and telomerase activity, and to conduct expression profiling ofselected genes involved in telomere length maintenance are noted, as are methods for conducting gain- and loss-of-function studies in the chicken embryo. Tables containing references on general topics related to avian telomere biology and poultry husbandry as well as specific information regarding chicken orthologs of genes implicated in telomere maintenance pathways are provided. Internet resources for investigators of avian telomere biology are listed.

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