Lifespan prolonging mechanisms and insulin upregulation without fat accumulation in long-lived reproductives of a higher termite

Commun Biol. 2022 Jan 13;5(1):44. doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02974-6.


Kings and queens of eusocial termites can live for decades, while queens sustain a nearly maximal fertility. To investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying their long lifespan, we carried out transcriptomics, lipidomics and metabolomics in Macrotermes natalensis on sterile short-lived workers, long-lived kings and five stages spanning twenty years of adult queen maturation. Reproductives share gene expression differences from workers in agreement with a reduction of several aging-related processes, involving upregulation of DNA damage repair and mitochondrial functions. Anti-oxidant gene expression is downregulated, while peroxidability of membranes in queens decreases. Against expectations, we observed an upregulated gene expression in fat bodies of reproductives of several components of the IIS pathway, including an insulin-like peptide, Ilp9. This pattern does not lead to deleterious fat storage in physogastric queens, while simple sugars dominate in their hemolymph and large amounts of resources are allocated towards oogenesis. Our findings support the notion that all processes causing aging need to be addressed simultaneously in order to prevent it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • DNA Repair*
  • Fertility
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Isoptera / physiology*
  • Longevity
  • Reproduction
  • Up-Regulation


  • Insulin