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Exp Gerontol. 2003 Jun;38(6):615-8.

Is life span extension in single gene long-lived Caenorhabditis elegans mutants due to hypometabolism?

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Molecular Biology Program, MSC 3MLS, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001, USA.


The nematode C. elegans is widely used in aging research largely because of the identification of numerous gene mutations that significantly increase worm longevity. While model organisms such as C. elegans can provide important insights into aging it is also important to consider the limitations of these systems. For example, ectothermic (poikilothermic) organisms are able to tolerate a much larger metabolic depression than humans and considering only chronological longevity when assaying for long-lived mutants provides a limited perspective on the mechanisms by which longevity is increased. In order to provide true insight into the aging process additional physiological processes, such as metabolic rate, must also be assayed. Currently it is controversial when long-lived C. elegans mutants retain normal metabolic function. Resolving this issue requires accurately measuring the metabolic rate of C. elegans under conditions that minimize environmental stress. Comparisons of metabolic rate between long-lived and wild-type C. elegans under more optimized conditions indicate that the extended longevity of at least some long-lived C. elegans mutants may be due to a reduction in metabolic rate, rather than an alteration of a metabolically-independent genetic mechanism specific to aging. Consistent with this assertion are studies showing that the disruption of mitochondrial function in C. elegans can extend worm's longevity, but typically causes worms to grow and develop more slowly than wild-type animals.

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