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Critical dynamics of gene networks is a mechanism behind ageing and Gompertz law

From Complex Time
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Dmitriy Podolskiy
Ivan Molodtsov
Alexander Zenin
Valeria Kogan
Leonid I. Menshikov
Vadim N. Gladyshev
Robert J. Shmookler Reis
Peter O. Fedichev
Critical dynamics of gene networks is a mechanism behind ageing and Gompertz law


Although accumulation of molecular damage is suggested to be an important molecular mechanism of aging, a quantitative link between the dynamics of damage accumulation and mortality of species has so far remained elusive. To address this question, we examine stability properties of a generic gene regulatory network (GRN) and demonstrate that many characteristics of aging and the associated population mortality rate emerge as inherent properties of the critical dynamics of gene regulation and metabolic levels. Based on the analysis of age-dependent changes in gene-expression and metabolic profiles in Drosophila melanogaster, we explicitly show that the underlying GRNs are nearly critical and inherently unstable. This instability manifests itself as aging in the form of distortion of gene expression and metabolic profiles with age, and causes the characteristic increase in mortality rate with age as described by a form of the Gompertz law. In addition, we explain late-life mortality deceleration observed at very late ages for large populations. We show that aging contains a stochastic component, related to accumulation of regulatory errors in transcription/translation/metabolic pathways due to imperfection of signaling cascades in the network and of responses to environmental factors. We also establish that there is a strong deterministic component, suggesting genetic control. Since mortality in humans, where it is characterized best, is strongly associated with the incidence of age-related diseases, our findings support the idea that aging is the driving force behind the development of chronic human diseases.


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  • arxiv: arXiv:1502.04307

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