Changes in splicing patterns are a characteristic of the aging transcriptome; however, it is unclear whether these age‐related changes in splicing facilitate the progressive functional decline that defines aging. In Drosophila, visual behavior declines with age and correlates with altered gene expression in photoreceptors, including downregulation of genes encoding splicing factors. Here, we characterized the significance of these age‐regulated splicing‐associated genes in both splicing and visual function. To do this, we identified differential splicing events in either the entire eye or photoreceptors of young and old flies. Intriguingly, aging photoreceptors show differential splicing of a large number of visual function genes. In addition, as shown previously for aging photoreceptors, aging eyes showed increased accumulation of circular RNAs, which result from noncanonical splicing events. To test whether proper splicing was necessary for visual behavior, we knocked down age‐regulated splicing factors in photoreceptors in young flies and examined phototaxis. Notably, many of the age‐regulated splicing factors tested were necessary for proper visual behavior. In addition, knockdown of individual splicing factors resulted in changes in both alternative splicing at age‐spliced genes and increased accumulation of circular RNAs. Together, these data suggest that cumulative decreases in splicing factor expression could contribute to the differential splicing, circular RNA accumulation, and defective visual behavior observed in aging photoreceptors.
Aging, Drosophila, eye, photoreceptor, splicing, vision
Date of this Version
Stegeman R, Hall H, Escobedo SE, Chang HC, Weake VM. Proper splicing contributes to visual function in the aging Drosophila eye. Aging Cell. 2018 Oct;17(5):e12817. doi: 10.1111/acel.12817