Research Paper Volume 6, Issue 10 pp 879—899
The transcriptome of the bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus reveals adaptations of the longest-lived mammal
- 1 Division of Genetics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
- 2 Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, AK 99723, USA
- 3 Battelle Memorial Institute, Houston, TX 77079, USA
received: October 21, 2014 ; accepted: November 2, 2014 ; published: November 3, 2014 ;https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.100699
How to Cite
Mammals vary dramatically in lifespan, by at least two-orders of magnitude, but the molecular basis for this difference remains largely unknown. The bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus is the longest-lived mammal known, with an estimated maximal lifespan in excess of two hundred years. It is also one of the two largest animals and the most cold-adapted baleen whale species. Here, we report the first genome-wide gene expression analyses of the bowhead whale, based on the de novo assembly of its transcriptome. Bowhead whale or cetacean-specific changes in gene expression were identified in the liver, kidney and heart, and complemented with analyses of positively selected genes. Changes associated with altered insulin signaling and other gene expression patterns could help explain the remarkable longevity of bowhead whales as well as their adaptation to a lipid-rich diet. The data also reveal parallels in candidate longevity adaptations of the bowhead whale, naked mole rat and Brandt's bat. The bowhead whale transcriptome is a valuable resource for the study of this remarkable animal, including the evolution of longevity and its important correlates such as resistance to cancer and other diseases.