HSF-1 is involved in regulation of ascaroside pheromone biosynthesis by heat stress in Caenorhabditis elegans

Biochem J. 2016 Mar 15;473(6):789-96. doi: 10.1042/BJ20150938. Epub 2016 Jan 12.


The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans survives by adapting to environmental stresses such as temperature extremes by increasing the concentrations of ascaroside pheromones, termed ascarosides or daumones, which signal early C. elegans larvae to enter a non-aging dauer state for long-term survival. It is well known that production of ascarosides is stimulated by heat stress, resulting in enhanced dauer formation by which worms can adapt to environmental insults. However, the molecular mechanism by which ascaroside pheromone biosynthesis is stimulated by heat stress remains largely unknown. In the present study, we show that the heat-shock transcription factor HSF-1 can mediate enhanced ascaroside pheromone biosynthesis in response to heat stress by activating the peroxisomal fatty acid β-oxidation genes in C. elegans. To explore the potential molecular mechanisms, we examined the four major genes involved in the ascaroside biosynthesis pathway and then quantified the changes in both the expression of these genes and ascaroside production under heat-stress conditions. The transcriptional activation of ascaroside pheromone biosynthesis genes by HSF-1 was quite notable, which is not only supported by chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, but also accompanied by the enhanced production of chemically detectable major ascarosides (e.g. daumones 1 and 3). Consequently, the dauer formation rate was significantly increased by the ascaroside pheromone extracts from N2 wild-type but not from hsf-1(sy441) mutant animals grown under heat-stress conditions. Hence heat-stress-enhanced ascaroside production appears to be mediated at least in part by HSF-1, which seems to be important in adaptation strategies for coping with heat stress in this nematode.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; HSF-1; ascaroside; daumone; heat stress; mass spectrometry; pheromone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Mutation
  • Pheromones / biosynthesis*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Pheromones
  • Transcription Factors
  • heat shock factor-1, C elegans