Max Planck Research Group Frentz

Systems Biology of Ageing

The phenotype of an individual changes continuously throughout its life. During early stages of life, most individuals follow highly similar phenotypic trajectories. In the late stages of life, populations follow certain patterns of aging, although individuals vary significantly in their rates of physiological and cognitive decline, as well as in their longevity. Variability in the rate of change along life trajectories suggests that biological age can, to an extent, decouple from chronological age. Such decoupling is especially prevalent in adaptations to energy shortages, such as dormancy. Less extreme alterations to energy intake and expenditure, such as caloric restriction and increased physical activity, can also reduce apparent rates of aging. Our group studies how common trends and individualistic differences in phenotypic trajectories can be quantified at the molecular level, with a focus on the role of energy metabolism.

We strive to answer the following questions:

  • By reconstructing phenotypic trajectories of many individuals at the systems level, can we infer a molecular clock for biological age?
  • Does the rate of energy expenditure correlate with longevity, at the scales of organisms, tissues, and cells?
  • How much energy do organisms allocate to the fundamental processes of growth, reproduction, maintenance, and repair?
  • Do perturbations to energy intake and expenditure drive changes in energy allocation, and do these changes underly altered rates of ageing?

We use ideas and tools from molecular, cell, and systems biology, as well as physics and engineering, and apply them to several model systems, including microbes, worms, and cultured cells.

Selected publications

Nongenetic individuality, changeability, and inheritance in bacterial behavior
Pleška, M., Jordan, D., Frentz, Z., Xue, B., Leibler, S.
(2021) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, no. 13: e2023322118.

Bioluminescence dynamics in single germinating bacterial spores reveal metabolic heterogeneity
Frentz, Z., Dworkin, J.
(2020) Journal of the Royal Society Interface 17, no. 170: 20200350.

Homeorhesis and ecological succession quantified in synthetic microbial ecosystems
Chuang, J. S., Frentz, Z., Leibler, S.
(2019) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116, no. 30: 14852-14861.

Strongly deterministic population dynamics in closed microbial communities
Frentz, Z., Kuehn, S., Leibler, S.
(2015) Physical Review X 5, no. 4: 041014.

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