Dietary restriction (DR), defined as a moderate reduction in food intake short of malnutrition, has been shown to extend healthy lifespan in a diverse range of organisms, from yeast to primates. Reduced signalling through the insulin/IGF-like (IIS) and Target of Rapamycin (TOR) signalling pathways also extend lifespan. InDrosophila melanogaster the lifespan benefits of DR can be reproduced by modulating only the essential amino acids in yeast based food. Here, we show that pharmacological downregulation of TOR signalling, but not reduced IIS, modulates the lifespan response to DR by amino acid alteration. Of the physiological responses flies exhibit upon DR, only increased body fat and decreased heat stress resistance phenotypes correlated with longevity via reduced TOR signalling. These data indicate that lowered dietary amino acids promote longevity via TOR, not by enhanced resistance to molecular damage, but through modified physiological conditions that favour fat accumulation.
Energy expenditure is a key variable in the study of ageing, and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a model organism that has been used to make step changes in our understanding of the ageing process. Standard methods for measurement of energy expenditure involve placing individuals in metabolic chambers where their oxygen consumption and CO2 production can be quantified. These measurements require separating individuals from any social context, and may only poorly reflect the environment in which the animals normally live. The doubly-labeled water (DLW) method is an isotope-based technique for measuring energy expenditure which overcomes these problems. However, technical challenges mean that the smallest animals this method has been previously applied to weighed 50-200 mg. We overcame these technical challenges to measure energy demands in Drosophila weighing 0.78 mg. Mass-specific energy expenditure varied between 43 and 65 mW·g(-1). These estimates are considerably higher than estimates using indirect calorimetry of Drosophila in small metabolic chambers (around 18 mW·g(-1)). The methodology we have established extends downwards by three orders of magnitude the size of animals that can be measured using DLW. This approach may be of considerable value in future ageing research attempting to understand the genetic and genomic basis of ageing.
Survival records of longevity experiments are a key component in research on aging. However, surprisingly there have been very few cross-study analyses, besides comparisons of median lifespans or similar summary information. Here, we use a large set of full survival data from various studies to address questions in aging, which are beyond the scope of individual studies. We characterize survival differences between female and male flies of different genetic Drosophila strains, showing significant differences between strains. We further analyse the variation in survival of control cohorts recorded under highly similar conditions within different Drosophila strains. We found that overall transgenic constructs of the UAS/GAL4 expression system which should have no effect (e.g. a GAL4 construct alone) extend lifespan significantly in the w1118 strain. Using a large data set comprised of various studies, we found no evidence for larger lifespan extensions being associated with shorter lifespans of the control in Drosophila. This demonstrates that lifespan extending treatments are not purely rescuing weak backgrounds.
A critical requirement for research using model organisms is a well-defined and consistent diet. There is currently no complete chemically defined (holidic) diet available for Drosophila melanogaster. We describe a holidic medium that is equal in performance to an oligidic diet optimized for adult fecundity and lifespan. This holidic diet supports development over multiple generations but at a reduced rate. Over 7 years of experiments, the holidic diet yielded more consistent experimental outcomes than did oligidic food for egg laying by females. Nutrients and drugs were more available to flies in holidic medium and, similar to dietary restriction on oligidic food, amino acid dilution increased fly lifespan. We used this holidic medium to investigate amino acid-specific effects on food-choice behavior and report that folic acid from the microbiota is sufficient for Drosophila development.
Overexpression of sirtuins (NAD(+)-dependent protein deacetylases) has been reported to increase lifespan in budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster. Studies of the effects of genes on ageing are vulnerable to confounding effects of genetic background. Here we re-examined the reported effects of sirtuin overexpression on ageing and found that standardization of genetic background and the use of appropriate controls abolished the apparent effects in both C. elegans and Drosophila. In C. elegans, outcrossing of a line with high-level sir-2.1 overexpression abrogated the longevity increase, but did not abrogate sir-2.1 overexpression. Instead, longevity co-segregated with a second-site mutation affecting sensory neurons. Outcrossing of a line with low-copy-number sir-2.1 overexpression also abrogated longevity. A Drosophila strain with ubiquitous overexpression of dSir2 using the UAS-GAL4 system was long-lived relative to wild-type controls, as previously reported, but was not long-lived relative to the appropriate transgenic controls, and nor was a new line with stronger overexpression of dSir2. These findings underscore the importance of controlling for genetic background and for the mutagenic effects of transgene insertions in studies of genetic effects on lifespan. The life-extending effect of dietary restriction on ageing in Drosophila has also been reported to be dSir2 dependent. We found that dietary restriction increased fly lifespan independently of dSir2. Our findings do not rule out a role for sirtuins in determination of metazoan lifespan, but they do cast doubt on the robustness of the previously reported effects of sirtuins on lifespan in C. elegans and Drosophila.
Dietary restriction (DR) and mutations in nutrient signaling pathways can extend healthy life span in diverse organisms. Studying the interaction between these interventions should reveal mechanisms of aging, but has yielded some apparently contradictory results. A multidimensional representation of nutrition, called the geometric framework, can better describe the responses of life span and other traits, including metabolism, and can reconcile these apparent contradictions. We provide examples showing that it is more informative to analyze DR in terms of dietary balance and that dietary optimization for life span is critical for studies examining the biology of aging and other traits.
Dietary restriction extends healthy lifespan in diverse organisms and reduces fecundity. It is widely assumed to induce adaptive reallocation of nutrients from reproduction to somatic maintenance, aiding survival of food shortages in nature. If this were the case, long life under dietary restriction and high fecundity under full feeding would be mutually exclusive, through competition for the same limiting nutrients. Here we report a test of this idea in which we identified the nutrients producing the responses of lifespan and fecundity to dietary restriction in Drosophila. Adding essential amino acids to the dietary restriction condition increased fecundity and decreased lifespan, similar to the effects of full feeding, with other nutrients having little or no effect. However, methionine alone was necessary and sufficient to increase fecundity as much as did full feeding, but without reducing lifespan. Reallocation of nutrients therefore does not explain the responses to dietary restriction. Lifespan was decreased by the addition of amino acids, with an interaction between methionine and other essential amino acids having a key role. Hence, an imbalance in dietary amino acids away from the ratio optimal for reproduction shortens lifespan during full feeding and limits fecundity during dietary restriction. Reduced activity of the insulin/insulin-like growth factor signalling pathway extends lifespan in diverse organisms, and we find that it also protects against the shortening of lifespan with full feeding. In other organisms, including mammals, it may be possible to obtain the benefits to lifespan of dietary restriction without incurring a reduction in fecundity, through a suitable balance of nutrients in the diet.
Measurement of food intake in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is often necessary for studies of behaviour, nutrition and drug administration. There is no reliable and agreed method for measuring food intake of flies in undisturbed, steady state, and normal culture conditions. We report such a method, based on measurement of feeding frequency by proboscis-extension, validated by short-term measurements of food dye intake. We used the method to demonstrate that (a) female flies feed more frequently than males, (b) flies feed more often when housed in larger groups and (c) fly feeding varies at different times of the day. We also show that alterations in food intake are not induced by dietary restriction or by a null mutation of the fly insulin receptor substrate chico. In contrast, mutation of takeout increases food intake by increasing feeding frequency while mutation of ovo(D) increases food intake by increasing the volume of food consumed per proboscis-extension. This approach provides a practical and reliable method for quantification of food intake in Drosophila under normal, undisturbed culture conditions.
The “Green Theory” of aging proposes that organismal lifespan is limited by the failure to repair molecular damage generated by a broad range of metabolic processes. Two specific predictions arise from this: (1) that these processes will produce a wide variety of stable but dysfunctional compounds that increase in concentration with age, and (2) that organisms maintained under conditions that extend lifespan will display a reduced rate of accumulation of such “molecular rubbish”. To test these predictions, novel analytical techniques were developed to investigate the accumulation of damaged compounds in Drosophila melanogaster. Simple preparative techniques were developed to produce digests of whole D. melanogaster for use in three-dimensional (3D) fluorimetry and 1H NMR spectrometry. Cohorts of Drosophila maintained under normal conditions showed an age-related increase in signals consistent with damage whereas those maintained under conditions of low temperature and dietary restriction did not. 1H NMR revealed distinct age-associated spectral changes that will facilitate the identification of novel compounds that both increase and decrease during aging in this species. These findings are consistent with the predictions of the “Green Theory”.
Outcomes of lifespan studies in model organisms are particularly susceptible to variations in technical procedures. This is especially true of dietary restriction, which is implemented in many different ways among laboratories.
RNA interference (RNAi) provides an important tool for gene function discovery. It has been widely exploited in Caenorhabditis elegans ageing research because it does not appear to have any non-specific effects on ageing-related traits in that model organism. We show here that ubiquitous, adult-onset activation of the RNAi machinery, achieved by expressing a double stranded RNA targeting GFP or lacZ for degradation, or by increasing expression of Dicer substantially reduces lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster. Induction of GFPRNAi construct also alters the response of lifespan to nutrition, exacerbating the lifespan-shortening effects of food containing a high quantity of yeast. Our study indicates that activation of the RNAi machinery may have sequence-independent side-effects on lifespan, and that caution needs to be exercised when employing ubiquitous RNAi in Drosophila ageing studies. However, we also show that RNAi restricted to certain tissues may not be detrimental to lifespan.
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