Telomere length (TL) in offspring is positively correlated with paternal age at the time of the offspring conception. The paternal-age-at-conception (PAC) effect on TL is puzzling, and its biological implication at the population level is unknown. Using a probabilistic model of transgenerational TL and population dynamics, we simulated the effect of PAC on TL in individuals over the course of 1,000 years. Findings suggest a key role for an isometric PAC midpoint (PACmp) in modulating TL across generations, such that offspring conceived by males younger than the isometric PACmp have comparatively short telomeres, while offspring conceived by males older than the isometric PACmp have comparatively long telomeres. We further show that when cancer incidence escalates, the average PAC drops below the isometric PACmp and transgenerational adaptation to cancer ensues through TL shortening. We propose that PAC serves to maintain an optimal TL across generations.
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