Complexity of the genetic basis of ageing in nature revealed by a clinal study of lifespan and methuselah, a gene for ageing, in Drosophila from eastern Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • Clinal studies are a powerful tool for understanding the genetic basis of climatic adaptation. However, while clines in quantitative traits and genetic polymorphisms have been observed within and across continents, few studies have attempted to demonstrate direct links between them. The gene methuselah in Drosophila has been shown to have a major effect on stress response and longevity phenotypes based largely on laboratory studies of induced mutations in the mth gene. Clinal patterns in the most common mth haplotype and for lifespan (both increasing with latitude) have been observed in North American populations of D. melanogaster, implicating climatic selection. While these clinal patterns have led some to suggest that mth influences ageing in natural populations, limited evidence on the association between the two has so far been collected. Here, we describe a significant cline in the mth haplotype in eastern Australian D. melanogaster populations that parallel the cline in North America. We also describe a cline in mth gene expression. These findings further support the idea that mth is itself under selection. In contrast, we show that lifespan has a strong nonlinear clinal pattern, increasing southwards from the tropics, but then decreasing again from mid-latitudes. Furthermore, in association studies, we find no evidence for a direct link between mth haplotype and lifespan. Thus, while our data support a role for mth variation being under natural selection, we found no link to naturally occurring variation in lifespan and ageing in Australian populations of D. melanogaster. Our results indicate that the mth locus likely has genetic background and environment-specific effects.

publication date

  • 2013