Science, Dec 2012: if the gonad can't produce germ cells, a "molecular switch" initiates a life-prolonging programme - reproduction system and life span are intertwined
Max Planck Researcher Yidong Shen has demonstrated in the round worm C. elegans that a signal coming from the gonad triggers a cascade of biochemical events that ultimately leads to a longer life. Here, the same "developmental timers" as in the regulation of the larval stages are used.
At the MPI for Biology of Ageing, scientists of the department "Molecular Genetics of Ageing", headed by Director Adam Antebi, uncovered a mechanism by which the gonad of C. elegans can regulate the worm's life span.
It was already known that larval development in the worm is regulated via a particular "molecular switch", involving the hormone dafachronic acid and so-called microRNAs. The new findings show, that this very same switch also plays an important role in life span regulation. Researchers around Yidong Shen have found out: If the gonad can't produce germ cells any more, a cascade of biochemical events is triggered that finally prompts the "molecular switch" to set a life-prolonging programme in motion.
The scientists assume that a life-prolonging programme kicks in when the gonad is damaged, in order to give the organism more time to possibly reproduce later, under improved conditions.
Read our press release on the corresponding Science paper.
Learn more about the research carried out in the Department Antebi.