One of the more noteworthy aspect of fly aging is the degree to which it is centered around intestinal dysfunction. Increasing leakage of the intestinal barrier is a feature of aging in many species, however, as noted here. When the intestinal barrier is compromised, the result is an invasion of tissues by gut microbes, provoking chronic inflammation throughout the body and further consequent dysfunction.
A major challenge in the biology of aging is to understand how specific age-onset pathologies relate to the overall health of the organism. The integrity of the intestinal epithelium is essential for the wellbeing of the organism throughout life. In recent years, intestinal barrier dysfunction has emerged as an evolutionarily conserved feature of aged organisms, as reported in worms, flies, fish, rodents, and primates. Moreover, age-onset intestinal barrier dysfunction has been linked to microbial alterations, elevated immune responses, metabolic alterations, systemic health decline, and mortality.
Here, we provide an overview of these findings. We discuss early work in the Drosophila model that sets the stage for examining the relationship between intestinal barrier integrity and systemic aging, then delve into research in other organisms. An emerging concept, supported by studies in both Drosophila and mice, is that directly targeting intestinal barrier integrity is sufficient to promote longevity. A better understanding of the causes and consequences of age-onset intestinal barrier dysfunction has significant relevance to the development of interventions to promote healthy aging.