A soma-to-germline transformation in long-livedCaenorhabditis elegansmutants

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Abstract

Unlike the soma, which ages during the lifespan of multicellular organisms, the germ line traces an essentially immortal lineage. Genomic instability in somatic cells increases with age, and this decline in somatic maintenance might be regulated to facilitate resource reallocation towards reproduction at the expense of cellular senescence. Here we show thatCaenorhabditis elegansmutants with increased longevity exhibit a soma-to-germline transformation of gene expression programs normally limited to the germ line. Decreased insulin-like signalling causes the somatic misexpression of the germline-limitedpie-1andpglfamily of genes in intestinal and ectodermal tissues. The forkhead boxO1A (FOXO) transcription factor DAF-16, the major transcriptional effector of insulin-like signalling, regulatespie-1expression by directly binding to thepie-1promoter. The somatic tissues of insulin-like mutants are more germline-like and protected from genotoxic stress. Gene inactivation of components of the cytosolic chaperonin complex that induce increased longevity also causes somatic misexpression of PGL-1. These results indicate that the acquisition of germline characteristics by the somatic cells ofC. elegansmutants with increased longevity contributes to their increased health and survival.

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