Genome-wide RNAi Screen for Fat Regulatory Genes in C. elegans Identifies a Proteostasis-AMPK Axis Critical for Starvation Survival

Cell Rep. 2017 Jul 18;20(3):627-640. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.06.068.


Organisms must execute metabolic defenses to survive nutrient deprivation. We performed a genome-wide RNAi screen in Caenorhabditis elegans to identify fat regulatory genes indispensable for starvation resistance. Here, we show that opposing proteostasis pathways are principal determinants of starvation survival. Reduced function of cytoplasmic aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (ARS genes) increases fat mass and extends starvation survival, whereas reduced proteasomal function reduces fat and starvation survival. These opposing pathways converge on AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) as the critical effector of starvation defenses. Extended starvation survival in ARS deficiency is dependent upon increased proteasome-mediated activation of AMPK. When the proteasome is inhibited, neither starvation nor ARS deficiency can fully activate AMPK, leading to greatly diminished starvation survival. Thus, activity of the proteasome and AMPK are mechanistically linked and highly correlated with starvation resistance. Conversely, aberrant activation of the proteostasis-AMPK axis during nutritional excess may have implications for obesity and cardiometabolic diseases.

Keywords: AMPK; C. elegans; amino-acyl tRNA synthetases; fat; lipid; metabolism; nutrient deprivation; proteasome; proteostatis; starvation survival.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Proteostasis / physiology*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases