Geneticists unlock the secret of mutant flies' longevity

August 07, 2019

Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Biology of Komi Science Centre of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Insilico Medicine, USA, determined which genes are affected by mutation that extends lifespan of fruit flies. Comparing gene activity of long-living fly strains to the control insects helped reveal mechanisms of aging and identify drug targets associated with aging-related diseases. The study was published in Scientific Reports.

"Gene activity controls all functions of a cell and, ultimately, the organism as a whole," said Alexey Moskalev, head of the Aging and Lifespan Genetics Lab at MIPT and the first author of the study. "We can better understand the biology behind longevity if we identify which genes are more active and which ones are less active at different ages in long-living strains of animals as compared to the short-living ones."

Biogerontologists use animals with short lifespans to test their hypotheses before moving on to conducting long-term experiments on mammals. Fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is a very convenient model organism as its genome is well studied and it contains genes correlated to 40% of human diseases, and the fruit flies' lifespan is only a couple of months. Drosophila breeding and genome editing are well-established technologies. Apart from that, fruit flies have two sexes, unlike creatures such as nematodes.

The authors of the study used a specially bred strain of Drosophila with E(z) gene partially suppressed. This gene affects the activity of other genes. Such mutant flies have remarkably longer lifespans than control specimens and exhibit a higher tolerance to adverse conditions. Which specific genes are affected by the mutation, however, has been, until now, unclear.

The Russian researchers confirmed the positive effect of the mutation, with the average lifespan of Drosophila extended by 22-23%. As part of the experiment, the flies were starved, poisoned with paraquat, and exposed to scorching temperatures of 35 °C (95 °F). The mutant Drosophila displayed higher tolerance to all of these factors. Apart from that, the mutation had an unexpected effect on the flies' fertility.

"It is known that in Drosophila, lifespan extension induced by mutation is often associated with reduced reproduction. But in our case, we saw an increase in mutant female fecundity across all age groups", Alexey Moskalev said in his comment on the study results.

Having confirmed the positive effects of the mutation, the researchers analyzed the product of all active genes within a cell (transcriptome analysis) to compare gene activity of mutant Drosophila and control specimens. They discovered 239 genes with the amount of gene product significantly different for the long- and short-living related groups. Among other things, these genes are involved in metabolism.

"We discovered that the mutation triggers a global alteration of metabolism. It affects carbohydrate metabolism, lipid metabolism, and nucleotide metabolism, as well as immune response genes activity and protein synthesis", Moskalev added.

The authors of the study plan to extend the lifespan of fruit flies even further by exposing them to combinations of various chemical and physical factors. The ultimate goal is to extend maximum species lifespan or the longest lifespan recorded for a specimen of the species.
The study was made with support from the Russian Science Foundation.

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to