• Open Access

Testing an ‘aging gene’ in long-lived Drosophila strains: increased longevity depends on sex and genetic background


Christine C. Spencer, Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA. E-mail: spencer@uga.edu, promislow@uga.edu


Molecular advances of the past decade have led to the discovery of a myriad of ‘aging genes’ (methuselah, Indy, InR, Chico, superoxide dismutase) that extend Drosophila lifespan by up to 85%. Despite this life extension, these mutants are no longer lived than at least some recently wild- caught strains. Typically, long-lived mutants are identified in relatively short-lived genetic backgrounds, and their effects are rarely tested in genetic backgrounds other than the one in which they were isolated or derived. However, the mutant's high-longevity phenotype may be dependent on interactions with alleles that are common in short-lived laboratory strains. Here we set out to determine whether one particular mutant could extend lifespan in long-lived genetic backgrounds in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. We measured longevity and resistance to thermal stress in flies that were transgenically altered to overexpress human superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the motorneurones in each of 10 genotypes. Each genotype carried the genetic background from a different naturally long-lived wild-caught Drosophila strain. While SOD increased lifespan on average, the effect was genotype- and sex-specific. Our results indicate that naturally segregating genes interact epistatically with the aging gene superoxide dismutase to modify its ability to extend longevity. This study points to the need to identify mutants that increase longevity not only in the lab strain of origin but also in naturally long-lived genetic backgrounds.