Analysing variation in Drosophila aging across independent experimental studies: a meta-analysis of survival data



Matthias Ziehm, EMBL – European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge CB10 1SD, UK. Tel.: +44 1223 49 2546; fax: +44 1223 49 4468; e-mail:


Survival records of longevity experiments are a key component in research on aging. However, surprisingly there have been very few cross-study analyses, besides comparisons of median lifespans or similar summary information. Here, we use a large set of full survival data from various studies to address questions in aging, which are beyond the scope of individual studies. We characterize survival differences between female and male flies of different genetic Drosophila strains, showing significant differences between strains. We further analyse the variation in survival of control cohorts recorded under highly similar conditions within different Drosophila strains. We found that overall transgenic constructs of the UAS/GAL4 expression system which should have no effect (e.g. a GAL4 construct alone) extend lifespan significantly in the w1118 strain. Using a large data set comprised of various studies, we found no evidence for larger lifespan extensions being associated with shorter lifespans of the control in Drosophila. This demonstrates that lifespan extending treatments are not purely rescuing weak backgrounds.