Thermotolerance and extended life-span conferred by single-gene mutations and induced by thermal stress

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Aug 1;92(16):7540-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.92.16.7540.


We have discovered that three longevity mutants of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans also exhibit increased intrinsic thermotolerance (Itt) as young adults. Mutation of the age-1 gene causes not only 65% longer life expectancy but also Itt. The Itt phenotype cosegregates with age-1. Long-lived spe-26 and daf-2 mutants also exhibit Itt. We investigated the relationship between increased thermotolerance and increased life-span by developing conditions for environmental induction of thermotolerance. Such pretreatments at sublethal temperatures induce significant increases in thermotolerance and small but statistically highly significant increases in life expectancy, consistent with a causal connection between these two traits. Thus, when an animal's resistance to stress is increased, by either genetic or environmental manipulation, we also observe an increase in life expectancy. These results suggest that ability to respond to stress limits the life expectancy of C. elegans and might do so in other metazoa as well.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, Helminth
  • Hot Temperature
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics