The fractionation experiment: Reducing heterogeneity to investigate age-specific mortality in Drosophila

Aziz A. Khazaeli, Scott D. Pletcher, James W. Curtsinger

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43 Scopus citations


Age-specific mortality rates decelerate at older ages in both genetically homogenous and heterogeneous populations of Drosophila. One explanation proposed for deceleration is population heterogeneity. This hypothesis suggests that a population consists of sub-populations that differ in mortality characteristics and that the deceleration is the result of selective survival of stronger individuals. Here we describe an experiment that fractionates populations into several sub-populations without changing the physiological characteristics of the post-fractionated populations. Through a careful process of selection of Drosophila eggs, larvae, pupae and adults, we attempt to reduce as much as possible the degree of pre-adult, environmentally induced heterogeneity among individuals of a genetically identical cohort. We then ask whether such cohorts, when compared to non-fractionated populations, exhibit a lesser degree of mortality deceleration at advanced ages. From a total of 106 fractionated and control populations, consisting of 51 331 individuals, 101 populations (93% of the fractionated populations and 100% of the control populations) exhibit a significant amount of mortality deceleration late in life. These observations suggest that environmental heterogeneity accrued during larval development is not a major factor contributing to mortality deceleration at older ages. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-317
Number of pages17
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 16 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank L. Ackert, C. Gendron, K. Kelly, C. Misiak for technical assistance. Two anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments that greatly improved the manuscript. Research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Health (P01 AG08761 and R01 AG11722 to JWC).


  • Drosophila
  • Fractionation
  • Heterogeneity
  • Leveling off
  • Mortality


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