© 2014 European Society For Evolutionary Biology. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2014 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.
The role of telomere shortening to explain the occurrence of Robertsonian (Rb) fusions, as well as the importance of the average telomere length vs. the proportion of short telomeres, especially in nature populations, is largely unexplored. In this study, we have analysed telomere shortening in nine wild house mice from the Barcelona Rb system with diploid numbers ranging from 29 to 40 chromosomes. We also included two standard (2n=40) laboratory mice for comparison. Our data showed that the average telomere length (considering all chromosomal arms) is influenced by both the diploid number and the origin of the mice (wild vs. laboratory). In detail, we detected that wild mice from the Rb Barcelona system (fused and standard) present shorter telomeres than standard laboratory mice. However, only wild mice with Rb fusions showed a high proportion of short telomeres (only in p-arms), thus revealing the importance of telomere shortening in the origin of the Rb fusions in the Barcelona system. Overall, our study confirms that the number of critically short telomeres, and not a simple reduction in the average telomere length, is more likely to lead to the origin of Rb fusions in the Barcelona system and ultimately in nature.