Hormetins, antioxidants and prooxidants: defining quercetin-, caffeic acid- and rosmarinic acid-mediated life extension in C. elegans

Biogerontology. 2011 Aug;12(4):329-47. doi: 10.1007/s10522-011-9334-7. Epub 2011 Apr 19.


Quercetin, Caffeic- and Rosmarinic acid exposure extend lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans. This comparative study uncovers basic common and contrasting underlying mechanisms: For all three compounds, life extension was characterized by hormetic dose response curves, but hsp-level expression was variable. Quercetin and Rosmarinic acid both suppressed bacterial growth; however, antibacterial properties were not the dominant reason for life extension. Exposure to Quercetin, Caffeic- and Rosmarinic acid resulted in reduced body size, altered lipid-metabolism and a tendency towards a delay in reproductive timing; however the total number of offspring was not affected. An indirect dietary restriction effect, provoked by either chemo-repulsion or diminished pharyngeal pumping was rejected. Quercetin and Caffeic acid were shown to increase the antioxidative capacity in vivo and, by means of a lipofuscin assay, reduce the oxidative damage in the nematodes. Finally, it was possible to demonstrate that the life and thermotolerance enhancing properties of Caffeic- and Rosmarinic acid both rely on osr-1, sek-1, sir-2.1 and unc-43 plus daf-16 in the case of Caffeic acid. Taken together, hormesis, in vivo antioxidative/prooxidative properties, modulation of genetic players, as well as the re-allocation of energy all contribute (to some extent and dependent on the polyphenol) to life extension.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / drug effects*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caffeic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Caffeic Acids / pharmacology
  • Cinnamates / administration & dosage
  • Cinnamates / pharmacology
  • DNA, Helminth / genetics
  • Depsides / administration & dosage
  • Depsides / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Genes, Helminth
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Longevity / drug effects
  • Longevity / genetics
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Polyphenols / administration & dosage
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology
  • Quercetin / administration & dosage
  • Quercetin / pharmacology
  • Rosmarinic Acid


  • Antioxidants
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Caffeic Acids
  • Cinnamates
  • DNA, Helminth
  • Depsides
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Polyphenols
  • Quercetin
  • caffeic acid