Under adverse conditions, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans undergoes reversible developmental arrest as dauer larvae, an alternative third larval stage adapted for dispersal and long-term survival. Following such arrest, which may exceed three times their usual life-span, worms resume development to form reproductive adults of normal subsequent longevity. Mutations of genes in the dauer-formation (daf) pathway can extend life-span two- to fourfold, even in adults that mature without diapause. To identify transcript-level changes that might contribute to extended survival, we prepared a subtractive cDNA library of messages more abundant in dauer than in non-dauer (L3) larvae. Six genes were confirmed as three- to ninefold upregulated in dauer larvae, after correction for mRNA load: genes encoding poly(A)-binding protein (PABP), heat-shock proteins hsp70 and hsp90, and three novel genes of uncertain function. The novel genes encode a partial homologue of human activating signal cointegrator 1 (ASC-1), a GTP-binding homologue of a ribosomal protein, and an SH3-domain protein. Transcript levels for all except hsp70 increased during aging in two C. elegans strains, whereas the three novel genes (and possibly PABP) were also induced to varying degrees by starvation of adults. All six genes are expressed at higher levels in young adults of long-lived daf mutant strains than in normal-longevity controls, suggesting that increased expression of these genes may play a protective function, thus favoring survival in diverse contexts.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.