BBS Faculty Member - Matthew Meselson

Matthew Meselson

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Harvard University
BioLabs 4048
16 Divinity Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel: 617-495-2264
Fax: 617-496-2444
Visit my lab page here.

Bdelloid Rotifers as a Model System for Investigating the Biology of Aging

We are employing rotifers of Class Bdelloidea, a group of small freshwater invertebrates, as a particularly advantageous model system for investigating the causes and control of aging -- the progressive increase in death rate with age that occurs in adult humans and in other animals.

Characteristics that make bdelloid rotifers a promising model system for such studies include: (i) parthenogenetic reproduction, assuring genetic homogeneity of progeny; (ii) very low or negligible death rate until egg deposition is completed, followed by an abrupt onset of aging manifested as an exponentially increasing (Gompertzian) death rate; (iii) extreme resistance of pre-aging bdelloids to ionizing radiation (IR) and IR-induced protein oxidation, allowing tests of the relation between aging and oxidative damage of a kind not possible in other organisms; (iv) completion of all somatic cell division before hatching, obviating replicative senescence as a possible complicating factor; (v) ease of culturing and production of even-age populations; (vi) normal mean life span of only a few weeks; (vii) transparency, allowing the use of fluorescence-based assays of reactive oxidative species (ROS) and oxidized protein on individual live animals; and (viii) a soon to be completed annotated genome sequence, allowing us to examine changes in specific gene expression accompanying the onset and progression of aging.

Homologous genetic exchange in bdelloid rotifers

Rotifers of Class Bdelloidea are common freshwater invertebrates whose ancient origin and apparent lack of sexual reproduction have posed the principal challenge to the generally held view that genetic transfer between individuals within a species is essential for its long-term evolutionary success. We have recently found, however, that bdelloid rotifers do engage in homologous genetic transfer within a species (or clade) and are attempting to characterize the mode of such exchange and the population structure within which it occurs.

We welcome applications to join our laboratory from qualified individuals committed to attacking and solving fundamental problems in biology.

Last Update: 8/22/2013


For a complete listing of publications click here.



Van Doninck, K., M. Mandigo, J. Hur , P. Wang , J. Guglielmini , M. Milinkovitch , W. Lane, M Meselson. 2009. Phylogenomics of Unusual Histone H2A Variants in Bdelloid Rotifers. PLoS Genetics, 5(3):e1000401.

Hur, J., K. Van Doninck, M. Mandigo, M. Meselson. 2009. Degenerate Tetraploidy Was Established Before Bdelloid Rotifer Families Diverged. Molecular Biology and Evolution 26:375-383.

Gladyshev, E., M. Meselson. 2008. Extraordinary resistance of Bdelloid rotifers to ionizing radiation. PNAS 105: 5139–5144.

Gladyshev, E., M. Meselson, I. Arkhipova. 2008. Massive horizontal gene transfer in Bdelloid rotifers. Science 320: 1210-1213.

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