A starved Caenorhabditis elegans worm in an early larval stage, showing the intensity of expression of the gene tps-1, which appears strongest in the intestine and the outer skin  JONATHAN HIBSHMAN & RYAN BAUGH / DUKE UNIVERSITY The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans is a popular model to study the physiological reponses that allow animals to cope with starvation. When population densities are high and food is limited, C. elegans will form specialized larval forms—so-called “dauer” larvae—that can survive for months in nutrient-poor conditions, or enter a state of developmental arrest until they feed. To explore the genetics involved in this survival adaptation, scientists took a close look at one gene, known as tps-1, that is involved in synthesizing trehalose, a sugar that helps protect the worms from desiccation and other types of stress. They found that tps-1 expression and trehalose synthesis increases during starvation periods, demonstrating its role as a stress protectant.


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