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PLoS Biol. 2005 Feb;3(2):e45. Epub 2005 Feb 1.

Aging and death in an organism that reproduces by morphologically symmetric division.

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  • 1Inserm, U571, Paris, France. estewar1@post.harvard.edu <estewar1@post.harvard.edu>

Abstract

In macroscopic organisms, aging is often obvious; in single-celled organisms, where there is the greatest potential to identify the molecular mechanisms involved, identifying and quantifying aging is harder. The primary results in this area have come from organisms that share the traits of a visibly asymmetric division and an identifiable juvenile phase. As reproductive aging must require a differential distribution of aged and young components between parent and offspring, it has been postulated that organisms without these traits do not age, thus exhibiting functional immortality. Through automated time-lapse microscopy, we followed repeated cycles of reproduction by individual cells of the model organism Escherichia coli, which reproduces without a juvenile phase and with an apparently symmetric division. We show that the cell that inherits the old pole exhibits a diminished growth rate, decreased offspring production, and an increased incidence of death. We conclude that the two supposedly identical cells produced during cell division are functionally asymmetric; the old pole cell should be considered an aging parent repeatedly producing rejuvenated offspring. These results suggest that no life strategy is immune to the effects of aging, and therefore immortality may be either too costly or mechanistically impossible in natural organisms.

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PMID:
15685293
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC546039
Free PMC Article

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