Menu

Cool Genes

A thermosensitive ion channel helps C. elegans live longer at cold temperatures.

Jul 1, 2013
Kate Yandell

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN METABOLIC SCIENCE

LONG-LIVED WORMS: C. elegans worms, pictured here, can live longer in the cold, thanks to an ion channel called TRP. © SINCLAIR STAMMERS/SCIENCE SOURCE

The paper
R. Xiao et al., “A genetic program promotes C. elegans longevity at cold temperatures via a thermosensitive TRP channel,” Cell, 152:806-17, 2013.

The finding
Many animals live longer at cold temperatures. The dominant explanation has been that low temperatures simply slow down all chemical reactions, including the ones that lead to aging. “People assume that it’s just a passive process,” says Shawn Xu, a neurobiologist and geneticist at the University of Michigan. But he and colleagues have found that in C. elegans, the cold-sensitive ion channel TRP is involved in actively promoting longevity when the temperature drops.

The approach
For years, Xu had been studying how TRP channels, encoded by the TRPA-1 gene, influence neuronal signaling and behavior. His team found that C. elegans engineered to lack TRPA-1 had shorter life spans at low temperatures than worms without the mutation, whereas worms producing higher levels of TRPA-1 lived longer at low temperatures. Both mutants lived a normal life span at normal temperatures.

The pathway
The TRP channel activates an anti-aging pathway by letting calcium ions into the cell, Xu and his team found. The calcium signaling sets off a cascade of kinases, which activate the transcription factor DAF-16, famous for its involvement in anti-aging pathways.

Human implications
Xu and colleagues engineered worms to express human TRP channels instead of their own and found that the worms still had enhanced longevity at low temperatures. The horseradish-like condiment wasabi also activates human TRP channels, and Xu was able to promote longevity even at normal temperatures by giving the transgenic worms wasabi’s active ingredient. “It’s a very exciting finding from a basic-science point of view, and possibly from an application point of view,” says Bruno Conti, a chemical physiologist at The Scripps Research Institute in California.

November 2018

Intelligent Science

Wrapping our heads around human smarts

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice cutting tools—which feature our patent-pending safety blades—meet many lab-specific requirements. Our scalpels and craft knives are well suited for delicate work, and our utility knives are good for general use.

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

Every minute counts when waiting for accurate diagnostic test results to guide critical care decisions, making today's clinical lab more important than ever. In fact, nearly 70 percent of critical care decisions are driven by a diagnostic test.

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC’s Genomics division announced it is transforming its branding under LGC, Biosearch Technologies, a unified portfolio brand integrating optimised genomic analysis technologies and tools to accelerate scientific outcomes.