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Gerontology. 2018;64(1):96-104. doi: 10.1159/000480504. Epub 2017 Sep 22.

Untangling Longevity, Dauer, and Healthspan in Caenorhabditis elegans Insulin/IGF-1-Signalling.

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Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Health Sciences and Technology, Schwerzenbach, Switzerland.


The groundbreaking discovery that lower levels of insulin/IGF-1 signaling (IIS) can induce lifespan extension was reported 24 years ago in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In this organism, mutations in the insulin/IGF-1 receptor gene daf-2 or other genes in this pathway can double lifespan. Subsequent work has revealed that reduced IIS (rIIS) extends lifespan across diverse species, possibly including humans. In C. elegans, IIS also regulates development into the diapause state known as dauer, a quiescent larval form that enables C. elegans to endure harsh environments through morphological adaptation, improved cellular repair, and slowed metabolism. Considerable progress has been made uncovering mechanisms that are affected by C. elegans rIIS. However, from the beginning it has remained unclear to what extent rIIS extends C. elegans lifespan by mobilizing dauer-associated mechanisms in adults. As we discuss, recent work has shed light on this question by determining that rIIS can extend C. elegans lifespan comparably through downstream processes that are either dauer-related or -independent. Importantly, these two lifespan extension programs can be distinguished genetically. It will now be critical to tease apart these programs, because each may involve different longevity-promoting mechanisms that may be relevant to higher organisms. A recent analysis of organismal "healthspan" has questioned the value of C. elegans rIIS as a paradigm for understanding healthy aging, as opposed to simply extending life. We discuss other work that argues strongly that C. elegans rIIS is indeed an invaluable model and consider the likely possibility that dauer-related processes affect parameters associated with health under rIIS conditions. Together, these studies indicate that C. elegans and analyses of rIIS in this organism will continue to provide unexpected and exciting results, and new paradigms that will be valuable for understanding healthy aging in humans.


Aging; Caenorhabditis elegans; Dauer; Insulin/IGF-1 signaling; Longevity

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