SUMMARY Reduced insulin/IGF-1-like signaling (IIS) extends C. elegans lifespan by upregulating stress response (Class I) and downregulating other (Class II) genes through a mechanism that depends on the conserved transcription factor DAF-16/FOXO. By integrating genomewide mRNA expression responsiveness to DAF-16 with genomewide in vivo binding data for a compendium of transcription factors, we discovered that PQM-1 is the elusive transcriptional activator that directly controls development (Class II) genes by binding to the DAF-16 associated element (DAE). DAF-16 directly regulates Class I genes only, through the DAF-16 binding element (DBE). Loss of PQM-1 suppresses daf-2 longevity and further slows development. Surprisingly, the nuclear localization of PQM-1 and DAF-16 is controlled by IIS in opposite ways, and was also found to be mutually antagonistic. We observe progressive loss of nuclear PQM-1 with age, explaining declining expression of PQM-1 targets. Together, our data suggest an elegant mechanism for balancing stress response and development.
SUMMARY Reproductive cessation is perhaps the earliest aging phenotypes humans experience. Similarly, C. elegans’ reproduction ceases in mid-adulthood. Although somatic aging has been studied in both worms and humans, mechanisms regulating reproductive aging are not yet understood. Here we show that TGF-β Sma/Mab and Insulin/IGF-1 signaling regulate C. elegans reproductive aging by modulating multiple aspects of the reproductive process, including embryo integrity, oocyte fertilizability, chromosome segregation fidelity, DNA damage resistance, and oocyte and germline morphology. TGF-β activity regulates reproductive span and germline/oocyte quality non-cell-autonomously, and is temporally and transcriptionally separable from its regulation of growth. Chromosome segregation, cell cycle, and DNA damage response genes are upregulated in TGF-β mutant oocytes, decline in aged mammalian oocytes, and are critical for oocyte quality maintenance. Our data suggest that C. elegans and humans share many aspects of reproductive aging, including the correlation between reproductive aging and declining oocyte quality, and mechanisms determining oocyte quality.
SummaryStudies in model organisms have identified regulatory processes that profoundly influence aging, many of which modulate resistance against environmental or metabolic stresses. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the transcription regulator SKN-1 is important for oxidative stress resistance and acts in multiple longevity pathways. SKN-1 is the ortholog of mammalian Nrf proteins, which induce Phase 2 detoxification genes in response to stress. Phase 2 enzymes defend against oxygen radicals and conjugate electrophiles that are produced by Phase 1 detoxification enzymes, which metabolize lipophilic compounds. Here, we have used expression profiling to identify genes and processes that are regulated by SKN-1 under normal and stress-response conditions. Under nonstressed conditions SKN-1 upregulates numerous genes involved in detoxification, cellular repair, and other functions, and downregulates a set of genes that reduce stress resistance and lifespan. Many of these genes appear to be direct SKN-1 targets, based upon presence of predicted SKN-binding sites in their promoters. The metalloid sodium arsenite induces skn-1-dependent activation of certain detoxification gene groups, including some that were not SKN-1-upregulated under normal conditions. An organic peroxide also triggers induction of a discrete Phase 2 gene set, but additionally stimulates a broad SKN-1-independent response. We conclude that under normal conditions SKN-1 has a wide range of functions in detoxification and other processes, including modulating mechanisms that reduce lifespan. In response to stress, SKN-1 and other regulators tailor transcription programs to meet the challenge at hand. Our findings reveal striking complexity in SKN-1 functions and the regulation of systemic detoxification defenses.
Novel C. elegans associative learning and memory assays reveal that insulin/IGF-1 signaling and dietary restriction pathways differentially maintain age-related memory decline by influencing expression levels of the transcription factor CREB.
Insulin/IGF-1 signaling (IIS) is a critical regulator of an organism’s most important biological decisions, from growth, development, and metabolism to reproduction and longevity. It primarily does so through the activity of the DAF-16/FOXO transcription factor, whose global targets were identified in C. elegans using whole-worm transcriptional analyses more than a decade ago1. IIS and FOXO also regulate important neuronal and adult behavioral phenotypes, such as the maintenance of memory2 and axon regeneration3 with age, in both mammals4 and C. elegans, but the neuron-specific IIS/FOXO targets that regulate these functions are still unknown. By isolating adult C. elegans neurons for transcriptional profiling, we identified both the wild-type and IIS/FOXO adult neuronal transcriptomes for the first time. IIS/FOXO neuron-specific targets are distinct from canonical IIS/FOXO-regulated longevity and metabolism targets, and are required for IIS/daf-2 mutants’ extended memory. We also discovered that the activity of the forkhead transcription factor FKH-9 in neurons is required for daf-2’s ability to regenerate axons with age, and its activity in non-neuronal tissues is required for daf-2’s long lifespan. Together, neuron-specific and canonical IIS/FOXO-regulated targets enable the coordinated extension of neuronal activities, metabolism, and longevity under low insulin-signaling conditions.
Together, our results suggest there are TGF-beta-specific downstream targets and functions, but that the TGF-beta and IIS pathways might be more tightly linked in the regulation of longevity than has been previously appreciated.
Female reproductive cessation is one of the earliest age-related declines humans experience, occurring in mid-adulthood. Similarly, Caenorhabditis elegans' reproductive span is short relative to its total life span, with reproduction ceasing about a third into its 15–20 day adulthood. All of the known mutations and treatments that extend C. elegans' reproductive period also regulate longevity, suggesting that reproductive span is normally linked to life span. C. elegans has two canonical TGF-ß signaling pathways. We recently found that the TGF-ß Dauer pathway regulates longevity through the Insulin/IGF-1 Signaling (IIS) pathway; here we show that this pathway has a moderate effect on reproductive span. By contrast, TGF-ß Sma/Mab signaling mutants exhibit a substantially extended reproductive period, more than doubling reproductive span in some cases. Sma/Mab mutations extend reproductive span disproportionately to life span and act independently of known regulators of somatic aging, such as Insulin/IGF-1 Signaling and Dietary Restriction. This is the first discovery of a pathway that regulates reproductive span independently of longevity and the first identification of the TGF-ß Sma/Mab pathway as a regulator of reproductive aging. Our results suggest that longevity and reproductive span regulation can be uncoupled, although they appear to normally be linked through regulatory pathways.
A decline in female reproduction is one of the earliest hallmarks of aging in many animals, including invertebrates and mammals [1-4]. The insulin/insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling (IIS) pathway has a conserved role in regulating longevity  and also controls reproductive aging [2, 6]. Although IIS transcriptional targets that regulate somatic aging have been characterized [7, 8], it was not known whether the same mechanisms influence reproductive aging. We previously showed that Caenorhabditis elegans daf-2 IIS receptor mutants extend reproductive span by maintaining oocyte quality with age , but IIS targets in oocytes had not been identified. Here, we compared the transcriptomes of aged daf-2(-) and wild-type oocytes, and distinguished IIS targets in oocytes from soma-specific targets. Remarkably, IIS appears to regulate reproductive and somatic aging through largely distinct mechanisms, although the binding motif for longevity factor PQM-1  was also overrepresented in oocyte targets. Reduction of oocyte-specific IIS targets decreased reproductive span extension and oocyte viability of daf-2(-) worms, and pqm-1 is required for daf-2(-)'s long reproductive span. Cathepsin-B-like gene expression and activity levels were reduced in aged daf-2(-) oocytes, and RNAi against cathepsin-B-like W07B8.4 improved oocyte quality maintenance and extended reproductive span. Importantly, adult-only pharmacological inhibition of cathepsin B proteases reduced age-dependent deterioration in oocyte quality, even when treatment was initiated in mid-reproduction. This suggests that it is possible to pharmacologically slow age-related reproductive decline through mid-life intervention. Oocyte-specific IIS target genes thereby revealed potential therapeutic targets for maintaining reproductive health with age.
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