Longevity in the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum is enhanced by broccoli and depends on nrf-2, jnk-1 and foxo-1 homologous genes
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- Grünwald, S., Stellzig, J., Adam, I.V. et al. Genes Nutr (2013) 8: 439. doi:10.1007/s12263-012-0330-6
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Diet is generally believed to affect the aging process. The effects of complex foods on life span can be investigated using simple models that produce rapid results and allow the identification of food–gene interactions. Here, we show that 1 % lyophilized broccoli, added to flour as a dietary source, significantly increases the life span of the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) under physiological conditions (32 °C) and under heat stress (42 °C). The beneficial effects of broccoli could also be reproduced by supplementing flour with the isothiocyanate sulforaphane at concentrations found in the broccoli-supplemented diet. We identified stress-resistant genes responsible for these effects on longevity by microinjecting pupae with double-stranded RNA to induce RNA interference (RNAi). The knockdown of transcripts encoding homologs of Nrf-2, Jnk-1 and Foxo-1 reduced the life span of beetles and abrogated the beneficial effects of broccoli, whereas the knockdown of Sirt-1 and Sirt-3 had no impact in either scenario. In conclusion, T. castaneum is a suitable model organism to investigate food–gene interactions that affect stress resistance and longevity, and RNAi can be used to identify functionally relevant genes. As a proof of principle, we have shown here that broccoli increases the longevity of beetles and mediates its effect through signaling pathways that include key stress-resistant factors such as Nrf-2, Jnk-1 and Foxo-1.