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Exp Gerontol. 2011 Sep;46(9):755-61. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2011.04.003. Epub 2011 Apr 23.

Lack of metabolic ageing in the long-lived flatworm Schmidtea polychroa.

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  • 1Laboratory for Ageing Physiology and Molecular Evolution, Biology Department, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. stijn.mouton@ugent.be


Freshwater planarians have a large totipotent stem cell population allowing high rates of cell renewal and morphological plasticity. It is often suggested that they are able to rejuvenate during fission, regeneration and starvation. These features, together with the rapidly expanding molecular toolset, make planarians such as Schmidtea polychroa and S. mediterranea interesting for ageing research. Yet, the basic demographic and physiological data are lacking or still based on fragmentary observations of one century ago. Here, we present the first longitudinal physiological study of the species S. polychroa. Survival, size and metabolic rate, measured by microcalorimetry, of a cohort of 28 individuals were followed over a period of three years. Sexual maturity was reached during the second month after which the worms continued growing up to 5 months. This initial growth phase was followed by alternating periods of synchronised growth and degrowth. Although mass-specific metabolic rates declined during the initial growth phase, no changes were found later in life. The absence of metabolic ageing may be explained by the very high rate of cell renewal during homeostasis and alternating phases of degrowth and growth during which tissues are renewed. Surprisingly, all deaths occurred in pairs of worms that were housed in the same culture recipient, suggesting that worms did not die from ageing. Taking into account the metabolic and demographic data, we suggest that S. polychroa shows negligible ageing. Detailed analyses of size and metabolic rate revealed a remarkable biphasic allometric scaling relation. During the initial growth phase (months 1-5) the allometric scaling exponent b was 0.86 while later in life, it increased to an unusually large value of 1.17, indicating that mass-specific metabolic rate increases with size in adult S. polychroa.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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