Genomic architecture of germline-soma feedbacks during aging

2012 new Scholar Award in aging

Aging and reproduction are intrinsically linked. In one view, the rate of aging emerges due to evolutionary conflicts between assured reproduction earlier in life and the vagaries of random death. Population genetics offer hypotheses to explain why an intimate relationship between reproduction and aging is to be expected but the molecular mechanisms underlying germline-soma feedbacks and the complexities of genetic and environmental interactions are only beginning to be discovered. How does suppression of reproduction lead to an extended lifespan in both mammalian and non-mammalian organisms? What are the mechanisms that underlie soma-germline integration and control the association between aging and reproduction? We have identified novel polymorphic variation that modifies epigenetic states, genome-wide expression levels, and reproductive phenotypes. The variation also modulates age-related pathways, including mitochondrial and transposable element activity. Altogether, my research is focused on understanding the interplay between genomes and their environment and its consequences to aging of the germline and somatic tissues. We expect to further dissect naturally occurring variation in molecular mechanisms that modulate aging and the coupling between reproduction and senescence.

Bernardo Lemos Ph.D.
Harvard University