Washington: Removal of germ cells – the sperm and egg producing cells – increases longevity of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, but the underlying molecular mechanisms were a mystery.Now scientists at the Cologne-based Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, have discovered that germ cell removal flips a “molecular switch” that extends the life span by using components of a “developmental clock”.The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans is a commonly used model organism in the field of ageing research. It develops from an egg to adult through four larval stages. These developmental stages are controlled by a developmental clock.Yidong Shen and colleagues working in the department of Director Adam Antebi used a laser to remove the germ cells.They found that the remaining gonadal cells trigger production of a steroid hormone called dafachronic acid. Dafachronic acid activates so-called microRNAs, which work as tiny molecular switches causing changes in gene expression that promote longevity.
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