Eusociality and Senescence: Neuroprotection and Physiological Resilience to Aging in Insect and Mammalian Systems

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 Jun 15;9:673172. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.673172. eCollection 2021.


Are eusociality and extraordinary aging polyphenisms evolutionarily coupled? The remarkable disparity in longevity between social insect queens and sterile workers-decades vs. months, respectively-has long been recognized. In mammals, the lifespan of eusocial naked mole rats is extremely long-roughly 10 times greater than that of mice. Is this robustness to senescence associated with social evolution and shared mechanisms of developmental timing, neuroprotection, antioxidant defenses, and neurophysiology? Focusing on brain senescence, we examine correlates and consequences of aging across two divergent eusocial clades and how they differ from solitary taxa. Chronological age and physiological indicators of neural deterioration, including DNA damage or cell death, appear to be decoupled in eusocial insects. In some species, brain cell death does not increase with worker age and DNA damage occurs at similar rates between queens and workers. In comparison, naked mole rats exhibit characteristics of neonatal mice such as protracted development that may offer protection from aging and environmental stressors. Antioxidant defenses appear to be regulated differently across taxa, suggesting independent adaptations to life history and environment. Eusocial insects and naked mole rats appear to have evolved different mechanisms that lead to similar senescence-resistant phenotypes. Careful selection of comparison taxa and further exploration of the role of metabolism in aging can reveal mechanisms that preserve brain functionality and physiological resilience in eusocial species.

PMID:34211973 | PMC:PMC8239293 | DOI:10.3389/fcell.2021.673172