Senescence and the Y chromosome
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The Y chromosome is a non-recombining, patrilineal chromosome that is comprised of a few male specific genes, repetitive sequences, and transposable elements (Graves 2006). It is well known for its role in sex determination and male fertility, but recent research revealed a new activity for the Y chromosome: control of gene expression on other chromosomes in the genome. In 2008 Benardo Lemos discovered that, in Drosophila melanogaster, polymorphisms on the Y chromosome have differential effects on expression of autosomal and X-linked genes. Many of these genes are involved in pathways related to cellular stability and repair, which are mechanisms that have a role in the aging process. This led to the hypothesis that the Y chromosome may have an influence on aging. To study this possibility we created an isogenic line of D. melanogaster, and introduced eighteen Y chromosomes to this line: nine from African populations and nine from North American populations. We measured senescence in these flies by monitoring death rate over a 60 day period. We found significant variation in rate of aging in both male and female flies, hinting at the complex nature of studies of the aging process.