• aging;
  • protein quality control;
  • protein carbonylation;
  • heat-shock proteins;
  • trade-offs;
  • proteasome


In organisms with a soma–germ demarcation, the germline must be ‘preserved’ such that harmful damage is not transmitted to the offspring. Keeping the progeny free of damage may be achieved by gametes enjoying elevated, and/or more functional, homeostatic maintenance systems. This possibility was approached here by testing whether the soma and maturating oocytes (eggs) dissected from female Drosophila melanogaster in reproductive ages display differential capacities for protein quality control and whether these capacities change during aging and mating. Eggs exhibited a high capacity to prevent protein aggregation, strong capacity for 26S proteasome-dependent degradation and reduced levels of oxidatively damaged (carbonylated) proteins compared to the soma. The capacity to prevent protein aggregation was not affected in either soma or eggs by age and/or mating, while the 26S proteasome capacity declined in the soma but was maintained in the eggs of aged females. However, the levels of carbonylated proteins increased with age in both soma and eggs, and this increase was more pronounced in females allowed to mate continuously. Furthermore, the levels of carbonylated proteins in the eggs of mated flies correlated negatively with the propensity of the eggs to develop into an adult fly. In young flies, mating caused a decrease in 26S proteasome capacity and an increase in protein carbonylation in the soma, but not in the eggs. These results are in line with trade-off theories of aging where aging is considered a consequence of investment in reproduction over somatic maintenance.