GENETIC CORRELATION BETWEEN RESISTANCE TO OXIDATIVE STRESS AND REPRODUCTIVE LIFE SPAN IN A BIRD SPECIES

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Abstract

Evolutionary theories propose that aging is the result of a trade-off between self-maintenance and reproduction, and oxidative stress may play a crucial role in such a trade-off. Phenotypic manipulations have revealed that a high investment in reproduction leads to a decline in the organism's resistance to oxidative stress, which could in turn accelerate aging. Here, by using quantitative genetic analyses as a tool to disentangle genetic effects from phenotypic variances, the relationship between resistance to oxidative stress at sexual maturity and two key reproductive life-history traits (i.e., number of breeding events during life and age at last reproduction) was analyzed in cross-fostered zebra finches. The age of last reproduction had high narrow-sense heritability, whereas the number of breeding events and oxidative stress resistance showed medium and low heritabilities, respectively. We detected positive genetic correlations between early resistance to oxidative stress and both life-history traits, suggesting that the efficiency of the antioxidant machinery at maturity may be related to individual reproductive investment throughout lifetime, possibly by influencing the pattern of cellular senescence. Genes encoding for resistance to oxidative stress would have pleiotropic effects on reproductive capacity and aging. Further work is required to confirm this assert.

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