Evolution of human longevity and the genetic complexity governing aging rate

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1975 Nov;72(11):4664-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.72.11.4664.


Genetic complexity of processes governing the aging rate of man was estimated by determining the maximum rate lifespan has evolved along the hominid ancestral-descendant sequence. Maximum lifespan potential was found to have increased approximately 2-fold over the past 3 million years, reaching a maximum rate of increase of 14 years per 100,000 years about 100,000 years ago. It is estimated that about 0.6% of the total functional genes have received substitutions leading to one or more adaptive amino acid changes during this 100,000-year time-period. This suggests that aging is not the result of an expression of a large number of independently acting processes. Instead, primary aging processes appear to exist where only a few genetic changes are necessary to decrease uniformly the aging rate of many different physiological functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genotype
  • Haplorhini / physiology
  • Humans
  • Longevity*