The current molecular understanding of the aging process derives almost exclusively from the study of random or targeted single-gene mutations in highly inbred laboratory species, mostly invertebrates. Little information is available as to the genetic mechanisms responsible for natural lifespan variation and the evolution of lifespan, especially in vertebrates. Here, we investigated the pattern of positive selection in annual (i.e., short-lived) and nonannual (i.e., longer-lived) African killifishes to identify a genomic substrate for evolution of annual life history (and reduced lifespan). We identified genes under positive selection in all steps of mitochondrial biogenesis: mitochondrial (mt) DNA replication, transcription from mt promoters, processing and stabilization of mt RNAs, mt translation, assembly of respiratory chain complexes, and electron transport chain. Signs of paralleled evolution (i.e., evolution in more than one branch of Nothobranchius phylogeny) are observed in four out of five steps. Moreover, some genes under positive selection in Nothobranchius are under positive selection also in long-lived mammals such as bats and mole-rats. Complexes of the respiratory chain are formed in a coordinates multistep process where nuclearly and mitochondrially encoded components are assembled and inserted into the inner mitochondrial membrane. The coordination of this process is named mitonuclear balance, and experimental manipulations of mitonuclear balance can increase longevity of laboratory species. Our data strongly indicate that these genes are also casually linked to evolution lifespan in vertebrates.
Keywords: evolution; gerontogenes; lifespan; longevity gene; longevity regulation; molecular biology of aging; mortality.
© 2017 The Authors. Aging Cell published by the Anatomical Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.