Are functional and demographic senescence genetically independent?

Exp Gerontol. 2006 Nov;41(11):1108-16. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2006.08.008. Epub 2006 Oct 11.


Biogerontology has traditionally focused on demographic senescence by searching for environmental manipulations and genes that extend life span. Relatively little is known about age-specific changes in functional traits and how demographic and functional senescence are genetically (co)regulated. To determine whether functional and demographic senescence have a similar genetic basis, we measured genotypic variation in the age-related change in cold-stress resilience and age-specific mortality using ten inbred lines of Drosophila melanogaster. Cold-stress resilience was measured as the average time for a population of flies to recover from a chill coma after being placed on melting ice for 6 h. We found genotypic variation in both sexes for chill-coma resilience, for the rate at which it declines with age, for longevity, for the initial mortality rate, and for the rate at which mortality increases with age. However, there was no genotypic correlation between any of these functional and demographic parameters. These results suggest that deterioration of at least some functional traits might be genetically independent of mortality patterns. Models for the genetic basis of senescence may do well to distinguish between quality and quantity of life in terms of their genetic architectures, and the way selection acts upon these two age-related factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Longevity / genetics
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mortality
  • Sex Factors
  • Survival Analysis