Metabolomic network in Drosophila melanogaster  (© Carly Ziegler)

Networks, metabolomics and the evolution of aging

Evolutionary theory tells us that aging evolves because of the age-related decline in the strength of natural selection, and evolutionary biologists have attempted to explain why longevity varies between species, and between individuals within species. Until now, however, there have been few attempts to understand why the age-related rate of failure of different functions varies within individuals. We are using systems biology approaches, with a particular focus on high-throughput metabolomics, to better understand the causes and consequences of differences in senescence among species, among individuals within species, and among processes and systems within individuals.

Aging in dogs

Dogs are the most phenotypically variable mammal on earth. The Promislow lab is interested in understanding the genetic basis of differences in lifespan among different dog breeds. In addition to our research on the topic, we have also put together a working group of leaders in biogerontology, the Canine Longevity Consortium, and will have regular meetings to explore the use of the dog as a model system in epidemiological studies of aging.

Photo by Paul Efland, University of Georgia

Genetics of mate choice

Over the past 25 years, researchers have identified insulin signaling as a key pathway influencing patterns of aging in model organisms. Recent studies have found that insulin signaling also appears to play an important role in the development of traits that are important in mate choice (Emlen et al. 2012, Kuo et al. 2012). In collaboration with Scott Pletcher at the University of Michigan, we are studying natural variation in sexual signaling in the fruit fly.

  ©Scott Pletcher

Theoretical models of aging

In addition to our empirical and computational studies, we are also interested in developing theory to better understand how selection shapes patterns of aging in natural populations, and how age-structure influences selection on other traits, such as mate choice.