, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 55-73

Patterns of metabolic activity during aging of the wild type and longevity mutants of Caenorhabditis elegans

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Abstract

At least three mechanisms determine life span in Caenorhabditis elegans. An insulin-like signaling pathway regulates dauer diapause, reproduction and longevity. Reduction-or loss-of-function mutations in this pathway can extend longevity substantially, suggesting that the wild-type alleles shorten life span. The mutations extend life span by activating components of a dauer longevity assurance program in adult life, resulting in altered metabolism and enhanced stress resistance. The Clock (Clk) genes regulate many temporal processes, including life span. Mutation in the Clk genes clk-1 and gro-1 mildly affect energy production, but repress energy consumption dramatically, thereby reducing the rate of anabolic metabolism and lengthening life span. Dietary restriction, either imposed by mutation or by the culture medium increases longevity and uncovers a third mechanism of life span determination. Dietary restriction likely elicits the longevity assurance program. There is still uncertainty as to whether these pathways converge on daf-16 to activate downstream longevity effector genes such as ctl-1 and sod-3.

There is overwhelming evidence that the interplay between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the capacity to resist oxidative stress controls the aging process and longevity. It is as yet not clear whether metabolic homeostasis collapses with age as a direct result of ROS-derived damage or is selectively repressed by longevity-determining genes. The dramatic decline of protein turnover during senescence results in the accumulation of altered enzymes and in a gradual decline of metabolic performance eventually followed by fatal failure of the system.