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Heredity (Edinb). 2017 Mar;118(3):221-228. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2016.89. Epub 2016 Oct 12.

Reproductive activity triggers accelerated male mortality and decreases lifespan: genetic and gene expression determinants in Drosophila.

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Molecular and Integrative Physiological Sciences Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.
School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.


Reproduction and aging evolved to be intimately associated. Experimental selection for early-life reproduction drives the evolution of decreased longevity in Drosophila whereas experimental selection for increased longevity leads to changes in reproduction. Although life history theory offers hypotheses to explain these relationships, the genetic architecture and molecular mechanisms underlying reproduction-longevity associations remain a matter of debate. Here we show that mating triggers accelerated mortality in males and identify hundreds of genes that are modulated upon mating in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Interrogation of genome-wide gene expression in virgin and recently mated males revealed coherent responses, with biological processes that are upregulated (testis-specific gene expression) or downregulated (metabolism and mitochondria-related functions) upon mating. Furthermore, using a panel of genotypes from the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource (DSPR) as a source of naturally occurring genetic perturbation, we uncover abundant variation in longevity and reproduction-induced mortality among genotypes. Genotypes displayed more than fourfold variation in longevity and reproduction-induced mortality that can be traced to variation in specific segments of the genome. The data reveal individual variation in sensitivity to reproduction and physiological processes that are enhanced and suppressed upon mating. These results raise the prospect that variation in longevity and age-related traits could be traced to processes that coordinate germline and somatic function.

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