Studies of mutations affecting lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans show that mitochondrial generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays a major causative role in organismal aging. Here, we describe a novel mechanism for regulating mitochondrial ROS production and lifespan in C. elegans: progressive mitochondrial protein modification by the glycolysis-derived dicarbonyl metabolite methylglyoxal (MG). We demonstrate that the activity of glyoxalase-1, an enzyme detoxifying MG, is markedly reduced with age despite unchanged levels of glyoxalase-1 mRNA. The decrease in enzymatic activity promotes accumulation of MG-derived adducts and oxidative stress markers, which cause further inhibition of glyoxalase-1 expression. Over-expression of the C. elegans glyoxalase-1 orthologue CeGly decreases MG modifications of mitochondrial proteins and mitochondrial ROS production, and prolongs C. elegans lifespan. In contrast, knock-down of CeGly increases MG modifications of mitochondrial proteins and mitochondrial ROS production, and decreases C. elegans lifespan.