More common than we thought?

Mutations that affect aging - more common than we thought?

Researchers at Linköping University used fruit flies to study mutations that may contribute to aging. Credit: Magnus Johansson / Linköping University

According to new research on fruit flies, the number of mutations that can contribute to aging may be significantly higher than before. The study, conducted by scientists at Linköping University in Sweden, supports a new theory about the type of mutation that may lie behind aging. Results have been published in BMC Biology.

We live, we age and we die. Many functions of our body slowly deteriorate but surely as we age, and eventually an organism dies. This idea may not be very encouraging, but most of us have probably accepted that it is the fate of all living beings – death is part of life. However, those who study evolutionary biology are clear about why this is the case.

“The evolution of aging is, in a way of speaking, a contradiction. Evolution causes constant adaptation in organisms, but still it does not bother them for age,” says Urban Frenberg, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry Huh. And biology and study leader at Linköping University.

About 70 years ago, evolutionary biologists proposed two theories regarding two different types of mutations that contribute to aging. Both of these mutations have a detrimental effect as the organism gets older – which leads to aging – while they are either beneficial or neutral in life. However, researchers have not determined which of the two types of mutations contributes to aging the most, despite experimental studies.

A few years ago a new theory was proposed stating that mutations occur due to harmful effects early in life with aging and whose negative effects increase with age. Those who support this hypothesis believe that many mutations that arise have a negative effect from the outset compared to the normal version of a gene.

Mutations that affect aging - more common than we thought?

Martin Inatti Brengdahl, a PhD student at Linköping University, examines fruit flies in a microscope. Credit: Magnus Johansson / Linköping University

Now published studies describe experiments testing the theory of mutations that have harmful effects throughout life and contribute to aging. The authors used one of the most well-studied animals in the world, namely the fruit fly, or Drosophila melanogaster. They tested 20 different mutations, which they put into the genetic material of the flies. For each individual mutation, they studied a group of flies with the mutation and a control group without it. Each mutation had a distinctive, visual effect, making it easier to follow, such as a somewhat different appearance of the wings or a different shape of the eye.

As an organism ages, a person’s chances of death increase, and its reproductive capacity drops. Researchers determined the fertility of fruit flies and used it as an aging measure. They counted the number of eggs each woman had early in life, after two weeks, and finally after two weeks (which is a ripe old age for ripening fruit!). Researchers wanted to see if the difference between the flies between the mutation and the control group changed as they aged. The results support the theory they were testing. Most mutations had a negative effect on the fertility of fruit flies early in life, and most of them caused reproductive aging more rapidly.

“Results suggest that life-threatening mutations can also contribute to aging. Thus it may be that mutations that bring on aging are significantly more common than before,” Martin, a doctoral student in the Department of Physics Says Inatti Brengdahl. , Lead author of chemistry and biology and studies.

Fertility strategy induces slow female aging

more information:
“Weak mutations show negative effects in Drosophila melanogaster increasing with age”, Martin I. Brangelhal, Christopher M. Kimber, Phoeb Elias, Josephine Thompson and Urban Frenberg, (2020) BMC Biology, Published online 30 September, DOI: 10.1186 / s12915-020-00858-5

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