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PLoS Biol. 2010 Aug 31;8(8). pii: e1000468. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000468.

The somatic reproductive tissues of C. elegans promote longevity through steroid hormone signaling.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.


In Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster, removing the germline precursor cells increases lifespan. In worms, and possibly also in flies, this lifespan extension requires the presence of somatic reproductive tissues. How the somatic gonad signals other tissues to increase lifespan is not known. The lifespan increase triggered by loss of the germ cells is known to require sterol hormone signaling, as reducing the activity of the nuclear hormone receptor DAF-12, or genes required for synthesis of the DAF-12 ligand dafachronic acid, prevents germline loss from extending lifespan. In addition to sterol signaling, the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16 is required to extend lifespan in animals that lack germ cells. DAF-12/NHR is known to assist with the nuclear accumulation of DAF-16/FOXO in these animals, yet we find that loss of DAF-12/NHR has little or no effect on the expression of at least some DAF-16/FOXO target genes. In this study, we show that the DAF-12-sterol signaling pathway has a second function to activate a distinct set of genes and extend lifespan in response to the somatic reproductive tissues. When germline-deficient animals lacking somatic reproductive tissues are given dafachronic acid, their expression of DAF-12/NHR-dependent target genes is restored and their lifespan is increased. Together, our findings indicate that in C. elegans lacking germ cells, the somatic reproductive tissues promote longevity via steroid hormone signaling to DAF-12.

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