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Reproductive Signals Affect Lifespan In Roundworm C. Elegans, Offering Possible Insight Into Human Aging Process

ng were to happen to an individual animal to cause some of its germ cells to develop more slowly than normal, such as a mutation that slows down the development of the germ cells, the number of germ line signals might diminish. As a result, the activity of DAF-16 would go up, which would keep the animals young for a long time," said the lead author of the study, Honor Hsin, a researcher in Kenyon's lab.

Likewise, Hsin said, if something happened during the development of a new species of animal to change the rate of development of the germ line, the rate of aging of the whole species might be slowed down over the course of millions of years so that it wouldn't age too fast for the germ line.

"Our finding demonstrates an inherent relationship between the reproductive state of C. elegans and its lifespan, which may have implications for the co-evolution of reproductive capability and longevity," said Kenyon. "The germ cells can effectively rule the life span of this animal."

While the model proposed by the researchers is compelling in its symmetry, it took the team months to isolate the specific contributions of the biochemical signals, and to determine the genetic controls they modulate. They did so by developing various models of C. elegans.

First, they killed the germ cells of a group of nematodes but left the somatic gonads in tact. These animals remained active and healthy longer than normal and live approximately 60 percent longer. This told them that a germ cell signals somehow decreases lifespan.

They then determined what gene the germ cell signal targets to exact its toll, the suspicion being that it acted on either the DAF-16 or DAF-2 gene, or both. They did so by deleting both the DAF-16 gene and the germ cells from a group of nematodes. Lifespan was not increased. The finding suggested that DAF-16 activity was needed in order for animals missing their germ lines to have long lifespans. In other words, the finding suggested th
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Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
26-May-1999


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