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A genome analysis of 88 rockfish species identifies genes linked to longevity!

Rockfish is served on menus all around the Pacific Rim, with little regard for the fish’s origins or which of the 137 species is on the plate—sometimes it’s referred to simply as rockfish or, more commonly, as rock cod or red snapper. However, this seemingly little fish—one of the world’s longest-living vertebrates—contains information about the genes that govern lifespan as well as the advantages and drawbacks of living longer.

Biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, compared the genomes of nearly two-thirds of the known species of rockfish that lived in coastal waters. It is around the Pacific Ocean, and I discovered some genetic differences that underpin their widely varying lifespans in a study published this week in Science.

Some rockfish, such as the colorful calico rockfish (Sebastes dallii), survive for less than a decade. In contrast, the rougheye rockfish (Sebastes aleutianus), which may be found from Japan to the Aleutian Islands, can live for more than 200 years on the seabed in cold, deep coastal waters.

Their long lifespans and changes in size, lifestyle, and ecological niche, known as phenotypic, evolved in just 10 million years, making them one of the fastest-evolving fish species.

To discover the genetic factors of rockfish lifetime, the researchers collected tissue samples—and occasionally taste samples—from 88 variants and sequenced their complete genomes using a cutting-edge technique called Pacbio, or SMRT, sequencing.

They discovered several genes linked to a longer life expectancy. Some of these genes are adaptations to living at greater depths and becoming more extensive, connected to a longer life expectancy. Elephants, for example, live longer than rats among animals.

The findings also emphasize the trade-offs of a long lifetime, such as smaller populations—a phenomenon seen in mammals as well, with short-lived rats outnumbering long-lived elephants by a large margin.

“We discovered both the genetic causes and consequences of adaptation to extended lifetime in this work,” said senior author Peter Sudmant, an assistant professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley.
Many biochemical processes connected with lifespan discovered by Sudmant and his team have previously been identified in genetic analyses of variation within a single animal species, albeit this work implicates numerous novel genes in these pathways. Nonetheless, the natural variation within this one genus of fish spread over the Pacific Ocean encompasses most of the genetic elements that impact lifespan.

The findings have ramifications for our understanding of human longevity. Longer-lived species possessed more immune regulating genes, mainly a group termed butyrophilins, than shorter-lived species, according to Sudmant and his colleagues. The findings suggest genes that could be targets of therapies to delay age-related damage in the body because the immune system regulates inflammation, and increased inflammation has been linked to human aging.

The researchers uncovered 137 longevity-associated gene changes after looking for DNA polymorphisms more common in fish with a longer lifespan.

However, not all of them have a direct impact on lifetime. Because the modifications that allow rockfish to adapt to deeper depths and develop to more significant sizes had the side effect of prolonging lifespan, the researchers took special effort to separate the genetic moderations that allowed them to adapt to deeper depths and grow to larger sizes. For example, more profound, calmer waters reduce metabolism, linked to a longer lifespan in many animals.