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Biophys J. 2008 Sep;95(5):2391-401. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.108.130005. Epub 2008 May 30.

Aging enhances indirect flight muscle fiber performance yet decreases flight ability in Drosophila.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA.


We investigated the effects of aging on Drosophila melanogaster indirect flight muscle from the whole organism to the actomyosin cross-bridge. Median-aged (49-day-old) flies were flight impaired, had normal myofilament number and packing, barely longer sarcomeres, and slight mitochondrial deterioration compared with young (3-day-old) flies. Old (56-day-old) flies were unable to beat their wings, had deteriorated ultrastructure with severe mitochondrial damage, and their skinned fibers failed to activate with calcium. Small-amplitude sinusoidal length perturbation analysis showed median-aged indirect flight muscle fibers developed greater than twice the isometric force and power output of young fibers, yet cross-bridge kinetics were similar. Large increases in elastic and viscous moduli amplitude under active, passive, and rigor conditions suggest that median-aged fibers become stiffer longitudinally. Small-angle x-ray diffraction indicates that myosin heads move increasingly toward the thin filament with age, accounting for the increased transverse stiffness via cross-bridge formation. We propose that the observed protein composition changes in the connecting filaments, which anchor the thick filaments to the Z-disk, produce compensatory increases in longitudinal stiffness, isometric tension, power and actomyosin interaction in aging indirect flight muscle. We also speculate that a lack of MgATP due to damaged mitochondria accounts for the decreased flight performance.

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