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. 2002 Oct 29;99(22):14286-91.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.222326199. Epub 2002 Oct 17.

A Test of Evolutionary Theories of Aging

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Free PMC article

A Test of Evolutionary Theories of Aging

Kimberly A Hughes et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Senescence is a nearly universal feature of multicellular organisms, and understanding why it occurs is a long-standing problem in biology. The two leading theories posit that aging is due to (i) pleiotropic genes with beneficial early-life effects but deleterious late-life effects ("antagonistic pleiotropy") or (ii) mutations with purely deleterious late-life effects ("mutation accumulation"). Previous attempts to distinguish these theories have been inconclusive because of a lack of unambiguous, contrasting predictions. We conducted experiments with Drosophila based on recent population-genetic models that yield contrasting predictions. Genetic variation and inbreeding effects increased dramatically with age, as predicted by the mutation theory. This increase occurs because genes with deleterious effects with a late age of onset are unopposed by natural selection. Our findings provide the strongest support yet for the mutation theory.

Figures

Fig 1.
Fig 1.
Box plots of age-specific reproductive success. The horizontal axis is age, and the vertical axis is reproductive success (number of offspring). (a) Heterozygous lines. (b) Homozygous lines. The boxes show 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles of distribution, whiskers show 10th and 90th percentiles, and the square symbols indicate the mean.
Fig 2.
Fig 2.
Age-specific estimates of additive (VA), dominance (VD), and homozygous variance (VH) with standard error bars. Standard errors were calculated from block means. Numbers next to the symbols are the mean variance estimates.

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