Background: In models extensively used in studies of aging and extended lifespan, such as C. elegans and Drosophila, adult senescence is regulated by gene networks that are likely to be similar to ones that underlie lifespan extension during dormancy. These include the evolutionarily conserved insulin/IGF, TOR and germ line-signaling pathways. Dormancy, also known as dauer stage in the larval worm or adult diapause in the fly, is triggered by adverse environmental conditions, and results in drastically extended lifespan with negligible senescence. It is furthermore characterized by increased stress resistance and somatic maintenance, developmental arrest and reallocated energy resources. In the fly Drosophila melanogaster adult reproductive diapause is additionally manifested in arrested ovary development, improved immune defense and altered metabolism. However, the molecular mechanisms behind this adaptive lifespan extension are not well understood. Results: A genome wide analysis of transcript changes in diapausing D. melanogaster revealed a differential regulation of more than 4600 genes. Gene ontology (GO) and KEGG pathway analysis reveal that many of these genes are part of signaling pathways that regulate metabolism, stress responses, detoxification, immunity, protein synthesis and processes during aging. More specifically, gene readouts and detailed mapping of the pathways indicate downregulation of insulin-IGF (IIS), target of rapamycin (TOR) and MAP kinase signaling, whereas Toll-dependent immune signaling, Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) and Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) pathways are upregulated during diapause. Furthermore, we detected transcriptional regulation of a large number of genes specifically associated with aging and longevity. Conclusions: We find that many affected genes and signal pathways are shared between dormancy, aging and lifespan extension, including IIS, TOR, JAK/STAT and JNK. A substantial fraction of the genes affected by diapause have also been found to alter their expression in response to starvation and cold exposure in D. melanogaster, and the pathways overlap those reported in GO analysis of other invertebrates in dormancy or even hibernating mammals. Our study, thus, shows that D. melanogaster is a genetically tractable model for dormancy in other organisms and effects of dormancy on aging and lifespan.
2016. Vol. 17, 50