Because of the suggested relationship between the lifespan of an organism and the amount of unscheduled DNA synthesis (UDS) occurring in its cells after treatment with genotoxic agents, we initiated a lifespan study of this step of the nucleotide excision repair pathway in female Wistar (WAG/Rij) rats. Skin fibroblasts were isolated at 2 time points, separated by a 9-month interval, from rats of various ages. The isolated cells were cultured for 1 passage, irradiated with ultraviolet light (UV) and analyzed by autoradiography for their capacity to perform UDS. The results of the two cross-sectional series of determinations were identical: small variations among individual animals and a slight, but statistically significant age-related decrease in the initial rate but not in the end level of UV-induced UDS. The small variation among individual inbred rats as compared with the large variation reported for UDS in human populations suggests that the latter is largely due to genetic differences. The lack of a more pronounced age-related decrease along with the small individual variation suggests that the activity of the DNA nucleotide excision repair pathway is not an important single determination of individual longevity in inbred rats of the same strain and sex.
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