Under stressful conditions, the early larvae of C. elegans enter dauer diapause, a non-aging period, driven by the seemingly opposite influence of ascaroside pheromones (ASCRs) and steroid hormone dafachronic acids (DAs). However, the molecular basis of how these small molecules engage in competitive crosstalk in coordination with insulin/IGF-1 signaling (IIS) remains elusive. Here we report a novel transcriptional regulatory pathway that seems to operate between the ASCR and DA biosynthesis under ad libitum (AL) feeding conditions or bacterial deprivation (BD). Although expression of the ASCR and DA biosynthetic genes reciprocally inhibit each other, ironically and interestingly, such dietary cue-mediated modulation requires the presence of the competitors. Under BD, induction of ASCR biosynthetic gene expression required DA, while ASCR suppresses the expression of the DA biosynthetic gene daf-36. The negative regulation of DA by ASCR was IIS-dependent, whereas daf-36 regulation appeared to be independent of IIS. These observations suggest that the presence of ASCR determines the IIS-dependency of DA gene expression regardless of dietary conditions. Thus, our work defines a molecular basis for a novel reciprocal gene regulation of pheromones and hormones to cope with stressful conditions during development and aging.
Keywords: C. elegans; ascaroside; dafachronic acid; development; hormone; pheromone.