Autophagy drives epidermal deterioration in a Drosophila model of tissue aging.
Organismal lifespan has been the primary readout in aging research. However, how longevity genes control tissue-specific aging remains an open question. To examine the crosstalk between longevity programs and specific tissues during aging, biomarkers of organ-specific aging are urgently needed. Since the earliest signs of aging occur in the skin, we sought to examine skin aging in a genetically tractable model. Here we introduce a Drosophila model of skin aging. The epidermis undergoes a dramatic morphological deterioration with age that includes membrane and nuclear loss. These changes were decelerated in a long-lived mutant and accelerated in a short-lived mutant. An increase in autophagy markers correlated with epidermal aging. Finally, the epidermis of Atg7 mutants retained younger characteristics, suggesting that autophagy is a critical driver of epidermal aging. This is surprising given that autophagy is generally viewed as protective during aging. Since Atg7 mutants are short-lived, the deceleration of epidermal aging in this mutant suggests that in the epidermis healthspan can be uncoupled from longevity. Because the aging readout we introduce here has an early onset and is easily visualized, genetic dissection using our model should identify other novel mechanisms by which lifespan genes feed into tissue-specific aging. (+info)