Recent studies have revealed a variety of genes and mechanisms that influence the rate of aging progression. In this study, we identified cell cycle factors as potent regulators of health and longevity in C. elegans. Focusing on the cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (cdk-2) and cyclin E (cye-1), we show that inhibition of cell cycle genes leads to tolerance towards environmental stress and longevity. The reproductive system is known as a key regulator of longevity in C. elegans. We uncovered the gonad as the central organ mediating the effects of cell cycle inhibition on lifespan. In particular, the proliferating germ cells were essential for conferring longevity. Steroid hormone signaling and the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16 were required for longevity associated with cell cycle inhibition. Furthermore, we discovered that SKN-1 (ortholog of mammalian Nrf proteins) activates protective gene expression and induces longevity when cell cycle genes are inactivated. We conclude that both, germline absence and inhibition through impairment of cell cycle machinery results in longevity through similar pathways. In addition, our studies suggest further roles of cell cycle genes beyond cell cycle progression and support the recently described connection of SKN-1/Nrf to signals deriving from the germline.
Keywords: C. elegans; DAF-16/FOXO; SKN-1/Nrf; aging; cell cycle; germline.