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Regulation of lifespan by sensory perception in Caenorhabditis elegans


Caenorhabditis elegans senses environmental signals through ciliated sensory neurons located primarily in sensory organs in the head and tail. Cilia function as sensory receptors, and mutants with defective sensory cilia have impaired sensory perception1,2. Cilia are membrane-bound microtubule-based structures and in C. elegans are only found at the dendritic endings of sensory neurons3. Here we show that mutations that cause defects in sensory cilia or their support cells, or in sensory signal transduction, extend lifespan. Our findings imply that sensory perception regulates the lifespan of this animal, and suggest that in nature, its lifespan may be regulated by environmental cues.

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Figure 1: Animals with defects in sensory cilia and sensory transduction live longer than wild type.
Figure 2: Survival curves of germline- and gonad-ablated animals, and double mutants.


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We thank J. Whangbo, S. Alper, J. Alcedo, H. Hsin, K. Lin, L. Yang, Q. Ch'ng, A. Dillin, D. Garigan and other members of the Kenyon Lab, as well as members of Cori Bargmann's lab, for stimulating discussions. Some nematode strains were provided by the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center, which is funded by the NIH. J.A. was supported by an HHMI Predoctoral Fellowship. This work was supported by a grant from the NIA to C.K.

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Correspondence to Cynthia Kenyon.

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Apfeld, J., Kenyon, C. Regulation of lifespan by sensory perception in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 402, 804–809 (1999).

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