, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 329–347 | Cite as

Hormetins, antioxidants and prooxidants: defining quercetin-, caffeic acid- and rosmarinic acid-mediated life extension in C. elegans

  • Kerstin Pietsch
  • Nadine Saul
  • Shumon Chakrabarti
  • Stephen R. Stürzenbaum
  • Ralph Menzel
  • Christian E. W. Steinberg
Research Article


Quercetin, Caffeic- and Rosmarinic acid exposure extend lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans. This comparative study uncovers basic common and contrasting underlying mechanisms: For all three compounds, life extension was characterized by hormetic dose response curves, but hsp-level expression was variable. Quercetin and Rosmarinic acid both suppressed bacterial growth; however, antibacterial properties were not the dominant reason for life extension. Exposure to Quercetin, Caffeic- and Rosmarinic acid resulted in reduced body size, altered lipid-metabolism and a tendency towards a delay in reproductive timing; however the total number of offspring was not affected. An indirect dietary restriction effect, provoked by either chemo-repulsion or diminished pharyngeal pumping was rejected. Quercetin and Caffeic acid were shown to increase the antioxidative capacity in vivo and, by means of a lipofuscin assay, reduce the oxidative damage in the nematodes. Finally, it was possible to demonstrate that the life and thermotolerance enhancing properties of Caffeic- and Rosmarinic acid both rely on osr-1, sek-1, sir-2.1 and unc-43 plus daf-16 in the case of Caffeic acid. Taken together, hormesis, in vivo antioxidative/prooxidative properties, modulation of genetic players, as well as the re-allocation of energy all contribute (to some extent and dependent on the polyphenol) to life extension.


Hormetin Antioxidant Quercetin Caffeic acid Rosmarinic acid Longevity Caenorhabditis elegans 



This work was partially supported by a grants (STE 673/16-1, STE 673/18-1) awarded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC grant BB/E025099 and a BBSRC Underwood Fellowship). Furthermore, we thank the Caenorhabditis Genetics Centre, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health National Centre for Research Resources, for the supply of the Caenorhabditis elegans strains.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Pietsch
    • 1
  • Nadine Saul
    • 1
  • Shumon Chakrabarti
    • 1
  • Stephen R. Stürzenbaum
    • 2
  • Ralph Menzel
    • 1
  • Christian E. W. Steinberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinDepartment of Biology, Laboratory of Freshwater & Stress EcologyBerlinGermany
  2. 2.School of Biomedical & Health Sciences, Analytical and Environmental Science DivisionKing′s College LondonLondonUK

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