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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 24;9(4):e87554. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087554. eCollection 2014.

Amelioration of reproduction-associated oxidative stress in a viviparous insect is critical to prevent reproductive senescence.

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Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut, United State of America; Section of Molecular and Applied Zoology, Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia.
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut, United State of America.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, United States of America.


Impact of reproductive processes upon female health has yielded conflicting results; particularly in relation to the role of reproduction-associated stress. We used the viviparous tsetse fly to determine if lactation, birth and involution lead to damage from oxidative stress (OS) that impairs subsequent reproductive cycles. Tsetse females carry an intrauterine larva to full term at each pregnancy cycle, and lactate to nourish them with milk secretions produced by the accessory gland ( = milk gland) organ. Unlike most K-strategists, tsetse females lack an apparent period of reproductive senescence allowing the production of 8-10 progeny over their entire life span. In a lactating female, over 47% of the maternal transcriptome is associated with the generation of milk proteins. The resulting single larval offspring weighs as much as the mother at birth. In studying this process we noted an increase in specific antioxidant enzyme (AOE) transcripts and enzymatic activity at critical times during lactation, birth and involution in the milk gland/fat body organ and the uterus. Suppression of superoxide dismutase (sod) decreased fecundity in subsequent reproductive cycles in young mothers and nearly abolished fecundity in geriatric females. Loss of fecundity was in part due to the inability of the mother to produce adequate milk to support larval growth. Longevity was also impaired after sod knockdown. Generation of OS in virgin females through exogenous treatment with hydrogen peroxide at times corresponding to pregnancy intervals reduced survival, which was exacerbated by sod knockdown. AOE expression may prevent oxidative damage associated with the generation of nutrients by the milk gland, parturition and milk gland breakdown. Our results indicate that prevention of OS is essential for females to meet the growing nutritional demands of juveniles during pregnancy and to repair the damage that occurs at birth. This process is particularly important for females to remain fecund during the latter portion of their lifetime.

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