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Pharmacological convergence reveals a lipid pathway that regulates C. elegans lifespan


Phenotypic screening has identified small-molecule modulators of aging, but the mechanism of compound action often remains opaque due to the complexities of mapping protein targets in whole organisms. Here, we combine a library of covalent inhibitors with activity-based protein profiling to coordinately discover bioactive compounds and protein targets that extend lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans. We identify JZL184—an inhibitor of the mammalian endocannabinoid (eCB) hydrolase monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL or MGLL)—as a potent inducer of longevity, a result that was initially perplexing as C. elegans does not possess an MAGL ortholog. We instead identify FAAH-4 as a principal target of JZL184 and show that this enzyme, despite lacking homology with MAGL, performs the equivalent metabolic function of degrading eCB-related monoacylglycerides in C. elegans. Small-molecule phenotypic screening thus illuminates pure pharmacological connections marking convergent metabolic functions in distantly related organisms, implicating the FAAH-4/monoacylglyceride pathway as a regulator of lifespan in C. elegans.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available within the paper (and its supplementary information files) or from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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We are grateful to M. Hansen, J. Chang, X. She, and G. Solis for discussions and technical expertise in C. elegans, D. Sabatini for the pRK5 vector, and the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center for strains. This work was supported by the NIH (DA033760, CA215249, GM074215), the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and Abide Therapeutics.

Author information

A.L.C., L.B.-P., and B.F.C. conceived the project and wrote the paper. A.L.C., M.P., L.B.-P., and B.F.C. designed the experiments. A.L.C., M.P., and L.B.-P. developed the methods. A.L.C. performed the experiments and analyzed data. K.M.L. and G.M.S. generated the putative SH list and nonredundant C. elegans database. A.L.C. and K.M.L. analyzed chemical proteomic data. A.L.C., K.M.L., D.O., A.B.C., and W.H.P. designed and synthesized compounds. A.L.C., P.L.-G. and A.T. generated CRISPR–Cas9 mediated strains and A.D. and M.P. provided the facilities. P. L.-G. and A.L.C. backcrossed and sequenced CRISPR–Cas9-mediated strains. M.P. and A.T. assisted with lifespan experiments and RNA-seq analysis. A.L.C. and G.M.S. generated dendrograms. K.M.L., P.L.-G., D.O., W.H.P., A.D., and M.P. edited the paper.

Competing interests

B.F.C. is a founder and advisor to Abide Therapeutics, a biotechnology company interested in developing serine hydrolase inhibitors and therapeutics.

Correspondence to Michael Petrascheck or Liron Bar-Peled or Benjamin F. Cravatt.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Tables 1–6, Supplementary Figures 1–12

  2. Reporting Summary

  3. Supplementary Note 1

    Synthetic methods

  4. Supplementary Dataset 1

    List of predicted C. elegans SHs, FP-enriched SHs, and gene expression data, related to Fig. 1.

  5. Supplementary Dataset 2

    Lifespan data.

  6. Supplementary Dataset 3

    Proteomic data, related to Figs. 3 and 4 and Supplementary Figure 7.

  7. Supplementary Dataset 4

    Proteomic data, related to Figs. 3 and 4 and Supplementary Table 7.

  8. Supplementary Dataset 5

    Proteomic data, related to Fig. 3.

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Further reading

Fig. 1: A chemical proteomic map of serine hydrolase (SH) activities and their chemical inhibition in C. elegans.
Fig. 2: Phenotypic screening identifies SH-directed inhibitors that extend lifespan in C. elegans.
Fig. 3: Identification of FAAH-4 as a principal target of JZL184 in C. elegans.
Fig. 4: FAAH-4 is inhibited by JZL184.
Fig. 5: FAAH-4 has 2-AG and AEA hydrolytic activity in vitro.
Fig. 6: FAAH-4 regulates MAG content and lifespan of C. elegans.