Our previous findings [Hazelton & Lang (1978) Fed. Proc. Fed. Am. Soc. Exp. Biol. 37(6), 2378 (abstr.)] demonstrated a senescence-specific decrease in glutathione (GSH) concentration in the yellow-fever mosquito Aedes aegypti (Louisville)]. As a possible mechanism for this change, GSH biosynthesis was investigated in adult mosquitoes of different ages through the life-span. Biosynthesis was measured as the incorporation rate of [14C]glycine or [14C]cystine into glutathione. Essential information to validate the procedure was also obtained on the precursor-amino-acid pool sizes and kinetic parameters such as lag-time and time course of incorporation. Also, synthesis de novo rather than exchange was verified using buthionine sulphoximine, a specific inhibitor of GSH biosynthesis. The synthetic rates with either amino acid precursor varied throughout the adult life-span, but the patterns for both precursors were essentially identical. Biosynthesis was high in the newly emerged adult and decreased 62-70% (P less than 0.005) to a plateau during maturity. From the mature value there was a decrease of 36-41% (P less than 0.005) to a new plateau during senescence. Glutathione biosynthesis and concentration were correlated throughout maturity and senescence (r = 0.982) and thus biosynthesis was proportional to glutathione content. On this basis we concluded that impaired biosynthesis is the major and perhaps sole mechanism for the aging decrease in glutathione content.

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