Epigenetic drift’s link to mammal lifespan

Dec 10, 2023

Epigenetic drift, characterised by the loss of epigenetic patterning, varies with the lifespan of different mammals. Shorter-lived species like rats and mice show a faster accumulation of epigenetic disorder compared to longer-lived species such as dogs and baboons. This variation in epigenetic changes, particularly in DNA methylation, appears to be closely linked to the maximum lifespan of these species, suggesting that epigenetic drift could be a key factor in determining lifespan differences among mammals.

November 2023 – Nature Communications


Key takeaways


  • Epigenetic drift and lifespan connection: The study reveals a significant correlation between the rate of epigenetic drift and the maximum lifespan of different mammalian species. Epigenetic drift, primarily observed as changes in DNA methylation patterns, tends to accumulate more rapidly in species with shorter lifespans. This suggests that the pace of epigenetic changes could be a key indicator of a species’ potential lifespan
  • Species-specific ageing patterns: There is a notable difference in how quickly epigenetic changes occur among various species. Shorter-lived mammals, such as rats and mice, show a more rapid accumulation of epigenetic disorders as they age, compared to longer-lived species like dogs and baboons. This indicates that the ageing process at the molecular level varies significantly across species, potentially influencing overall longevity
  • Genomic regions affected: The study highlights that epigenetic disorder does not occur uniformly across the genome but is concentrated in specific regions. These regions are likely critical in the ageing process, and understanding their role could provide insights into how ageing can be influenced or managed. The targeted nature of these changes suggests potential areas for future research in ageing and epigenetic therapies


The findings highlight the potential role of epigenetic drift as a determinant of lifespan differences among mammals. This opens up new avenues for research in longevity and ageing, suggesting that manipulating epigenetic factors could influence lifespan. It also raises the possibility of using epigenetic markers as predictors of ageing and longevity, both for research and potentially for clinical applications.


Read the article at: Bertucci-Richter, E.M., Parrott, B.B. The rate of epigenetic drift scales with maximum lifespan across mammals. Nat Commun 14, 7731 (2023).