Research Paper Volume 15, Issue 2 pp 396—420

Light modulates Drosophila lifespan via perceptual systems independent of circadian rhythms

Jacob C. Johnson1, , Allyson S. Munneke2, , Haley M. Richardson1, , Christi M. Gendron1,3, , Scott D. Pletcher1,3, ,

  • 1 Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
  • 2 Program in Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
  • 3 Geriatrics Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA

Received: October 8, 2022       Accepted: December 27, 2022       Published: January 6, 2023
How to Cite

Copyright: © 2023 Johnson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Across taxa, sensory perception modulates aging in response to important ecological cues, including food, sex, and danger. The range of sensory cues involved, and their mechanism of action, are largely unknown. We therefore sought to better understand how one potential cue, that of light, impacts aging in Drosophila melanogaster. In accordance with recently published data, we found that flies lived significantly longer in constant darkness. Extended lifespan was not accompanied by behavioral changes that might indirectly slow aging such as activity, feeding, or fecundity, nor were circadian rhythms necessary for the effect. The lifespans of flies lacking eyes or photoreceptor neurons were unaffected by light kept at normal housing conditions, and transgenic activation of these same neurons was sufficient to phenocopy the effects of environmental light on lifespan. The relationship between light and lifespan was not correlated with its intensity, duration, nor the frequency of light-dark transitions. Furthermore, high-intensity light reduced lifespan in eyeless flies, indicating that the effects we observed were largely independent of the known, non-specific damaging effects associated with light. Our results suggest that much like other environmental cues, light may act as a sensory stimulus to modulate aging.


DD: constant darkness; LD: 12 hrs of light followed by 12 hrs of dark; LL: constant light; SD: standard deviation; hr: hour; GMR: Glass multimer reporter; Per: period; Tim: timeless; Cyc: cycle; Cry: cryptochrome; DBT: doubletime.