Researchers have used whole-genome sequencing and gene expression profiling to identify genes associated with age, in the hope of understanding the underlying mechanisms of senescence. But there is a substantial gap from variation in gene sequences and expression levels to variation in age or life expectancy. In an attempt to bridge this gap, here we describe the effects of age, sex, genotype, and their interactions on high-sensitivity metabolomic profiles in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Among the 6800 features analyzed, we found that over one-quarter of all metabolites were significantly associated with age, sex, genotype, or their interactions, and multivariate analysis shows that individual metabolomic profiles are highly predictive of these traits. Using a metabolomic equivalent of gene set enrichment analysis, we identified numerous metabolic pathways that were enriched among metabolites associated with age, sex, and genotype, including pathways involving sugar and glycerophospholipid metabolism, neurotransmitters, amino acids, and the carnitine shuttle. Our results suggest that high-sensitivity metabolomic studies have excellent potential not only to reveal mechanisms that lead to senescence, but also to help us understand differences in patterns of aging among genotypes and between males and females.
Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; age; aging; genetic variation; genotype; heritability; metabolomics; sex; systems biology.
© 2014 The Authors. Aging Cell published by the Anatomical Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.