Lifespan extension in a semelparous chordate occurs via developmental growth arrest just prior to meiotic entry
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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It is proposed that the ageing process is linked to signaling from the germline such that the rate of ageing can be adjusted to the state of the reproductive system, allowing these two processes to co-evolve. Mechanistic insight into this link has been primarily derived from iteroparous reproductive models, the nematode C. elegans, and the arthropod Drosophila. Here, we examined to what extent these mechanisms are evolutionarily conserved in a semelparous chordate, Oikopleura dioica, where we identify a developmental growth arrest (GA) in response to crowded, diet-restricted conditions, which can extend its lifespan at least three-fold. Under nutritional stress, the iteroparative models sacrifice germ cells that have entered meiosis, while maintaining a reduced pool of active germline stem cells (GSCs). In contrast, O. dioica only entered GA prior to meiotic entry. Stress conditions encountered after this point led to maturation in a normal time frame but with reduced reproductive output. During GA, TOR signaling was inhibited, whereas MAPK, ERK1/2 and p38 pathways were activated, and under such conditions, activation of these pathways was shown to be critical for survival. Direct inhibition of TOR signaling alone was sufficient to prevent meiotic entry and germline differentiation. This inhibition activated the p38 pathway, but did not activate the ERK1/2 pathway. Thus, the link between reproductive status and lifespan extension in response to nutrientlimited conditions is interpreted in a significantly different manner in these iteroparative versus semelparous models. In the latter case, meiotic entry is a definitive signal that lifespan extension can no longer occur, whereas in the former, meiotic entry is not a unique chronological event, and can be largely erased during lifespan extension in response to nutrient stress, and reactivated from a pool of maintained GSCs when conditions improve.