Improved functional abilities of the life-extended Drosophila mutant Methuselah are reversed at old age to below control levels
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Methuselah (mth) is a chromosome 3 Drosophila mutant with an increased lifespan. A large number of studies have investigated the genetic, molecular, and biochemical mechanisms of the mth gene. Much less is known about the effects of mth on preservation of sensorimotor abilities throughout Drosophila’s lifespan, particularly in late life. The current study investigated functional senescence in mth and its parental-control line (w1118) in two experiments that measured age-dependent changes in flight functions and locomotor activity. In experiment 1, a total of 158 flies (81 mth and 77 controls) with an age range from 10 to 70 days were individually tethered under an infrared laser-sensor system that allowed monitoring of flight duration during phototaxic flight. We found that mth has a statistically significant advantage in maintaining continuous flight over control flies at age 10 days, but not during middle and late life. At age 70 days, the trend reversed and parental control flies had a small but significant advantage, suggesting an interaction between age and genotype in the ability to sustain flight. In experiment 2, a total of 173 different flies (97 mth and 76 controls) with an age range from 50 to 76 days were individually placed in a large well-lit arena (60 × 45 cm) and their locomotor activity quantified as the distance walked in a 1-min period. Results showed that mth flies had lower levels of locomotor activity relative to controls at ages 50 and 60 days. These levels converged for the two genotypes at the oldest ages tested. Findings show markedly different patterns of functional decline for the mth line relative to those previously reported for other life-extended genotypes, suggesting that different life-extending genes have dissimilar effects on preservation of sensory and motor abilities throughout an organism’s lifespan.
KeywordsDrosophila Longevity mth Methuselah Aging Sensorimotor Locomotor Behavior
The mth and control flies were graciously provided by the laboratory of the late Prof. Seymour Benzer. We thank Rosana Magalhães, Eugénia Fernandes, and Jorge Alves for helpful discussions. This work was supported by funding from the University of California, Irvine, and from the University of Minho, Portugal.
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