The nature of quantitative genetic variation for Drosophila longevity

Mech Ageing Dev. 2002 Jan;123(2-3):95-104. doi: 10.1016/s0047-6374(01)00330-x.


Longevity is a typical quantitative trait: the continuous variation in life span observed in natural populations is attributable to genetic variation at multiple quantitative trait loci (QTL), environmental sensitivity of QTL alleles, and truly continuous environmental variation. To begin to understand the genetic architecture of longevity at the level of individual QTL, we have mapped QTL for Drosophila life span that segregate between two inbred strains that were not selected for longevity. A mapping population of 98 recombinant inbred lines (RIL) was derived from these strains, and life span of virgin male and female flies measured under control culture conditions, chronic heat and cold stress, heat shock and starvation stress, and high and low density larval environments. The genotypes of the RIL were determined for polymorphic roo transposable element insertion sites, and life span QTL were mapped using composite interval mapping methods. A minimum of 19 life span QTL were detected by recombination mapping. The life span QTL exhibited strong genotype by sex, genotype by environment, and genotype by genotype (epistatic) interactions. These interactions complicate mapping efforts, but evolutionary theory predicts such properties of segregating QTL alleles. Quantitative deficiency mapping of four longevity QTL detected in the control environment by recombination mapping revealed a minimum of 11 QTL in these regions. Clearly, longevity is a complex quantitative trait. In the future, linkage disequilibrium mapping can be used to determine which candidate genes in a QTL region correspond to the genetic loci affecting variation in life span, and define the QTL alleles at the molecular level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*