• aging;
  • infection;
  • inflammation;
  • innate immunity;
  • reproduction


All organisms must display a certain degree of environmental adaptability to survive and reproduce. Growth and reproduction are metabolically expensive and carry other costs that contribute to aging. Therefore, animals have developed physiologic strategies to assess the harshness of the environment before devoting resources to reproduction. Presumably, these strategies maximize the possibility for offspring survival. Current views of aging reflect a trade-off between reproductive fitness and somatic maintenance whereby environmental stress induces an adaptive metabolic response aimed at preserving cellular integrity while inhibiting growth, whereas favorable environmental conditions (abundance of food and water, and optimal temperature, etc.) promote growth and reproductive maturity but simultaneously increase cellular damage and aging. Here we propose that the prevalence of infectious pathogens in a given niche represents an additional environmental factor that, via innate immune pathways, actively shifts this balance in favor of somatic maintenance at the expense of reproduction and growth. We additionally propose the construction of a genetic model system with which to test this hypothesis.