Starvation protects germline stem cells and extends reproductive longevity in C. elegans.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Science (New York, N.Y.), Volume 326, Issue 5955, p.954-8 (2009)


2009, Aging, Animals, APOPTOSIS, Basic Sciences Division, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins, Caspases, Embryonic Development, Germ Cells, Larva, Longevity, Mutation, Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear, Reproduction, Signal Transduction, Starvation, Stem Cells, Stress, Physiological


The study of starvation-resistant biological programs has elucidated numerous mechanisms influencing aging. Here we present the discovery and characterization of starvation-induced adult reproductive diapause (ARD) in Caenorhabditis elegans. ARD differs from the C. elegans dauer diapause in that it enables sexually mature adults to delay reproductive onset 15-fold and extend total adult life span at least threefold. The effectiveness of ARD requires apoptotic death of the entire germ line, except for a small population of protected germline stem cells (GSCs). When feeding is resumed, surviving GSCs regenerate a new germ line capable of offspring production near the level of nonstarved animals. The starvation-sensing nuclear receptor NHR-49 is required for ARD entry and recovery. Our findings establish mechanisms for preserving stem cell potency and reproductive potential during prolonged starvation.