Changes in mortality patterns and temperature dependence of lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster caused by inbreeding

Heredity (Edinb). 2004 Apr;92(4):275-81. doi: 10.1038/sj.hdy.6800412.


After an inbreeding event, lifespan can be curtailed through the expression of deleterious alleles. This will impact on both mortality patterns and interactions with the environment as visualised in reaction norms. We have established the effects of inbreeding on the temperature dependence of lifespan and on mortality patterns in Drosophila melanogaster. Four inbred lines displaying severely decreased lifespan and five outbred controls were assessed for male adult survival at three temperatures. As expected, all inbred lines showed a shorter lifespan than noninbred lines. The mechanisms behind this, however, appeared to be very diverse. Two inbred lines showed a significantly decreased temperature dependence of lifespan compared to the control lines. Analysis of variance on the mortality parameters over all lines showed that inbreeding changes the age-independent mortality but not the age-dependent mortality, whereas temperature does the opposite. This suggests that gene-by-environment interaction caused by inbreeding is the result of changes in the processes of lifespan determination. Importantly, for the two other inbred lines, a particular temperature regime triggered the expression of conditional lethal alleles. Mortality was concentrated in short lethal phases early in adult life. These conditionally expressed lethal alleles affecting lifespan demonstrate line specificity for inbreeding depression and will help ageing studies as such alleles may serve as candidate genes for ageing processes and age-related pathologies in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Inbreeding*
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Survival Rate
  • Temperature*