Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sex And Lifespan Linked In Worms

Date:
July 24, 2008
Source:
Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research
Summary:
In findings published in Nature, scientists have discovered that smaller, but more structurally diverse chemicals are a significant part of a living thing's biology. When food is scarce or colonies become crowded, young worms stop developing normally and enter the dauer stage. In this form they can live, without eating or reproducing, for months -- about ten times longer than the worm's normal lifespan. When the dauer finds greener pastures, it finally develops into an adult and resumes its normal aging process.

A group of scientists who set out to study sex pheromones in a tiny worm found that the same family of pheromones also controls a stage in the worms' life cycle, the long-lived dauer larva.

Related Articles


The findings, published in Nature online on July 23, represent the first time that reproduction and lifespan have been linked through so-called small molecules.

Where scientists once focused on DNA and proteins as the major players in an organism's biology, they are now realizing that smaller, but more structurally diverse chemicals - simply called "small molecules" - are a significant part of a living thing's biology. "They're as important to biology as the genes are," says Frank Schroeder, last author of the paper and a scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute.

The researchers set out to identify the sex pheromone that attracts male C. elegans worms to the more common hermaphrodites (this worm species has no females). C. elegans, a tiny nematode, is a model organism often used to study development and reproduction.

To identify the sex pheromone, the researchers tested mixtures of chemicals produced by the worms, narrowing down the possibilities until only a few remained. They discovered that a handful of sugar-like chemicals called ascarosides worked together to attract males.

"One interesting aspect is that a whole family of compounds is necessary to elicit a biological response. One by itself doesn't do much, but two or three together give a strong response," says Schroeder.

Surprisingly, the same group of compounds can also trigger young worms to enter the long-lived dauer stage.

When food is scarce or colonies become crowded, young worms stop developing normally and enter the dauer stage. In this form they can live, without eating or reproducing, for months - about ten times longer than the worm's normal lifespan. When the dauer finds greener pastures, it finally develops into an adult and resumes its normal aging process.

"We usually think of aging as a process of decay," says Schroeder, "but evidence is accumulating that aging is a stage of development like anything else." The researchers speculate that the dauer pheromone may also increase the lifespan of adult worms.

"The next question is how these compounds influence mating behavior and developmental timing on the molecular level," says Schroeder, and whether a similar effect is possible in other animals. "We're looking at genetic pathways that could potentially play a role in delayed aging."

Why would the same chemicals control both sexual attraction and lifespan? The way these chemicals work isn't fully understood yet, but scientists have long known that reproduction and lifespan are related - if an organism can be made to live longer, it usually reproduces less. "How these compounds fit into this picture remains to be clarified, but they provide one of the first direct links between these two life functions," says Schroeder.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. "Sex And Lifespan Linked In Worms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080723134452.htm>.
Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. (2008, July 24). Sex And Lifespan Linked In Worms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080723134452.htm
Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. "Sex And Lifespan Linked In Worms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080723134452.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) A photographer got the shot of a lifetime, or rather an octopus did, when it grabbed the camera and turned it around to take an amazing picture of the photographer. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins