Genetic analysis of variation in lifespan using a multiparental advanced intercross Drosophila mapping population

BMC Genet. 2016 Aug 2;17:113. doi: 10.1186/s12863-016-0419-9.


Background: Considerable natural variation for lifespan exists within human and animal populations. Genetically dissecting this variation can elucidate the pathways and genes involved in aging, and help uncover the genetic mechanisms underlying risk for age-related diseases. Studying aging in model systems is attractive due to their relatively short lifespan, and the ability to carry out programmed crosses under environmentally-controlled conditions. Here we investigate the genetic architecture of lifespan using the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource (DSPR), a multiparental advanced intercross mapping population.

Results: We measured lifespan in females from 805 DSPR lines, mapping five QTL (Quantitative Trait Loci) that each contribute 4-5 % to among-line lifespan variation in the DSPR. Each of these QTL co-localizes with the position of at least one QTL mapped in 13 previous studies of lifespan variation in flies. However, given that these studies implicate >90 % of the genome in the control of lifespan, this level of overlap is unsurprising. DSPR QTL intervals harbor 11-155 protein-coding genes, and we used RNAseq on samples of young and old flies to help resolve pathways affecting lifespan, and identify potentially causative loci present within mapped QTL intervals. Broad age-related patterns of expression revealed by these data recapitulate results from previous work. For example, we see an increase in antimicrobial defense gene expression with age, and a decrease in expression of genes involved in the electron transport chain. Several genes within QTL intervals are highlighted by our RNAseq data, such as Relish, a critical immune response gene, that shows increased expression with age, and UQCR-14, a gene involved in mitochondrial electron transport, that has reduced expression in older flies.

Conclusions: The five QTL we isolate collectively explain a considerable fraction of the genetic variation for female lifespan in the DSPR, and implicate modest numbers of genes. In several cases the candidate loci we highlight reside in biological pathways already implicated in the control of lifespan variation. Thus, our results provide further evidence that functional genetics tests targeting these genes will be fruitful, lead to the identification of natural sequence variants contributing to lifespan variation, and help uncover the mechanisms of aging.

Keywords: Aging; Complex traits; Lifespan; Multiparental populations; QTL mapping; RNAseq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*