Genetic dissection of late-life fertility in Caenorhabditis elegans

The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Alexander MendenhallThomas E Johnson


The large post-reproductive life span reported for the free-living hermaphroditic nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, which lives for about 10 days after its 5-day period of self-reproduction, seems at odds with evolutionary theory. Species with long post-reproductive life spans such as mammals are sometimes explained by a need for parental care or transfer of information. This does not seem a suitable explanation for C elegans. Previous reports have shown that C elegans can regain fertility when mated after the self-fertile period but did not report the functional limits. Here, we report the functional life span of the C elegans germ line when mating with males. We show that C elegans can regain fertility late in life (significantly later than in previous reports) and that the end of this period corresponds quite well to its 3-week total life span. Genetic analysis reveals that late-life fertility is controlled by conserved pathways involved with aging and dietary restriction.


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