Somatic aging pathways regulate reproductive plasticity in Caenorhabditis elegans

Elife. 2021 Jul 8:10:e61459. doi: 10.7554/eLife.61459.


In animals, early-life stress can result in programmed changes in gene expression that can affect their adult phenotype. In C. elegans nematodes, starvation during the first larval stage promotes entry into a stress-resistant dauer stage until environmental conditions improve. Adults that have experienced dauer (postdauers) retain a memory of early-life starvation that results in gene expression changes and reduced fecundity. Here, we show that the endocrine pathways attributed to the regulation of somatic aging in C. elegans adults lacking a functional germline also regulate the reproductive phenotypes of postdauer adults that experienced early-life starvation. We demonstrate that postdauer adults reallocate fat to benefit progeny at the expense of the parental somatic fat reservoir and exhibit increased longevity compared to controls. Our results also show that the modification of somatic fat stores due to parental starvation memory is inherited in the F1 generation and may be the result of crosstalk between somatic and reproductive tissues mediated by the germline nuclear RNAi pathway.

Keywords: C. elegans; daf-12; developmental biology; genetics; genomics; hrde-1; nhr-49; postdauer; prg-1; tcer-1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Fertility
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Germ Cells
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Larva / physiology
  • Longevity
  • Male
  • Peptide Elongation Factors / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • RNA Interference
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Starvation


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • KRI-1 protein, C elegans
  • Peptide Elongation Factors
  • TCER-1 protein, C elegans