Ageing and the resulting increased likelihood mortality are the inescapable fate of organisms because selection pressures on genes that exert their function late in life is weak, promoting the evolution of genes that enhance early‐life reproductive performance at the same time as sacrificing late survival. Heat shock proteins (HSP) are known to buffer various environmental stresses and are also involved in protein homeostasis and longevity. The characteristics of genes for HSPs (hsp) imply that they affect various life‐history traits, which in turn affect longevity; however, little is known about the effects of hsp genes on life‐history traits and their interaction with longevity. In the present study, the effects of hsp genes on multiple fitness traits, such as locomotor activity, total fecundity, early fecundity and survival time, are investigated in Drosophila melanogasterMeigen using RNA interference (RNAi). In egg‐laying females, RNAi knockdown of six hsp genes (hsp22, hsp23, hsp67Ba, hsp67Bb, hsp67Bc and hsp27‐like) does not shorten survival but rather increases it. Knockdown of five of those genes on an individual basis reduces early‐life reproduction, suggesting that several hsp genes mediate the trade‐off between early reproduction and late survival. The data indicate a positive effect of hsp genes on early reproduction and also negative effects on survival time, supporting the antagonistic pleiotropic effects predicted by the optimality theory of ageing.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.