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Behavioral Senescence and Aging-Related Changes in Motor Neurons and Brain Neuromodulator Levels Are Ameliorated by Lifespan-Extending Reproductive Dormancy in Drosophila

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>20/04/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Number of pages20
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster can be extended substantially by inducing reproductive dormancy (also known as diapause) by lowered temperature and short days. This increase of longevity is accompanied by lowered metabolism and increased stress tolerance. We ask here whether behavioral senescence is ameliorated during adult dormancy. To study this we kept flies for seven or more weeks in normal rearing conditions or in diapause conditions and compared to 1-week-old flies in different behavioral assays of sleep, negative geotaxis and exploratory walking. We found that the senescence of geotaxis and locomotor behavior seen under normal rearing conditions was negligible in flies kept in dormancy. The normal senescence of rhythmic activity and sleep patterns during the daytime was also reduced by adult dormancy. Investigating the morphology of specific neuromuscular junctions (NMJs), we found that changes normally seen with aging do not take place in dormant flies. To monitor age-associated changes in neuronal circuits regulating activity rhythms, sleep and walking behavior we applied antisera to tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), serotonin and several neuropeptides to examine changes in expression levels and neuron morphology. In most neuron types the levels of stored neuromodulators decreased during normal aging, but not in diapause treated flies. No signs of neurodegeneration were seen in either condition. Our data suggest that age-related changes in motor neurons could be the cause of part of the behavioral senescence and that this is ameliorated by reproductive diapause. Earlier studies established a link between age-associated decreases in neuromodulator levels and behavioral decline that could be rescued by overexpression of neuromodulator. Thus, it is likely that the retained levels of neuromodulators in dormant flies alleviate behavioral senescence.