Developmental biomarkers of aging in Caenorhabditis elegans

Dev Dyn. 2010 May;239(5):1306-14. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.22224.


The developmental process of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is famously invariant; however, these animals have surprisingly variable lifespans, even in extremely homogenous environments. Inter-individual differences in muscle-function decline, accumulation of lipofuscin in the gut, internal growth of food bacteria, and ability to mobilize heat-shock responses all appear to be predictive of a nematode's remaining lifespan; whether these are causal, or mere correlates of individual decline and death, has yet to be determined. Moreover, few "upstream" causes of inter-individual variability have been identified. It may be the case that variability in lifespan is entirely due to stochastic damage accumulation; alternately, perhaps such variability has a developmental origin and/or genes involved in developmental canalization also act to buffer phenotypic heterogeneity later in life. We review these two hypotheses with an eye toward whether they can be experimentally differentiated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Growth and Development
  • Longevity


  • Biomarkers