Stephanie Kelly, who worked under the direction of Ken Dawson-Scully, Associate Professor of Biology, and is scheduled to receive her Ph.D. this May, published a paper examining how PKG, encoded by the polymorphic foraging gene, confers hypoxia tolerance at the expense of lifespan and healthy aging, indicating a role for PKG in aging and senescence. Kelly joined the Integrative Biology Ph.D. program in the fall of 2014. Their recent work entitled "Natural polymorphism in protein kinase G modulates functional senescence in D. melanogaster" was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
The common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is a well-characterized model for neurological disorders and is widely used to investigate the biology of aging, stress tolerance, and pleiotropy. The foraging (for) gene encodes a cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG), which has been implicated in several behavioral phenotypes including feeding, sleep, learning and memory, and environmental stress tolerance. We used the well-established Drosophila Activity Monitor (DAM) to investigate the effects of the conserved NO/cGMP/PKG signaling pathway on functional senescence. Our results show that the polymorphic for gene confers protection during low oxygen stress at the expense of longevity and a decline in locomotor activity with age in D. melanogaster which suggests a novel role for the PKG pathway in healthy aging and senescence.