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Keywords:

  • aging;
  • DNA damage;
  • DNA epimutations;
  • DNA mutations;
  • DNA repair;
  • evolution

Genomes are inherently unstable because of the need for DNA sequence variation as a substrate for evolution through natural selection. However, most multicellular organisms have postmitotic tissues, with limited opportunity for selective removal of cells harboring persistent damage and deleterious mutations, which can therefore contribute to functional decline, disease, and death. Key in this process is the role of genome maintenance, the network of protein products that repair DNA damage and signal DNA damage response pathways. Genome maintenance is beneficial early in life by swiftly eliminating DNA damage or damaged cells, facilitating rapid cell proliferation. However, at later ages accumulation of unrepaired damage and mutations, as well as ongoing cell depletion, promotes cancer, atrophy, and other deleterious effects associated with aging. As such, genome maintenance and its phenotypic sequelae provide yet another example of antagonistic pleiotropy in aging and longevity.