Gluconeogenesis and PEPCK are critical components of healthy aging and dietary restriction life extension

Brian Onken, Natallia Kalinava, Monica Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


High glucose diets are unhealthy, although the mechanisms by which elevated glucose is harmful to whole animal physiology are not well understood. In Caenorhabditis elegans, high glucose shortens lifespan, while chemically inflicted glucose restriction promotes longevity. We investigated the impact of glucose metabolism on aging quality (maintained locomotory capacity and median lifespan) and found that, in addition to shortening lifespan, excess glucose negatively impacts locomotory healthspan. Conversely, disrupting glucose utilization by knockdown of glycolysis-specific genes results in large mid-age physical improvements via a mechanism that requires the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16. Adult locomotory capacity is extended by glycolysis disruption, but maximum lifespan is not, indicating that limiting glycolysis can increase the proportion of life spent in mobility health. We also considered the largely ignored role of glucose biosynthesis (gluconeogenesis) in adult health. Directed perturbations of gluconeogenic genes that specify single direction enzymatic reactions for glucose synthesis decrease locomotory healthspan, suggesting that gluconeogenesis is needed for healthy aging. Consistent with this idea, overexpression of the central gluconeogenic gene pck-2 (encoding PEPCK) increases health measures via a mechanism that requires DAF-16 to promote pck-2 expression in specific intestinal cells. Dietary restriction also features DAF-16-dependent pck-2 expression in the intestine, and the healthspan benefits conferred by dietary restriction require pck-2. Together, our results describe a new paradigm in which nutritional signals engage gluconeogenesis to influence aging quality via DAF-16. These data underscore the idea that promotion of gluconeogenesis might be an unappreciated goal for healthy aging and could constitute a novel target for pharmacological interventions that counter high glucose consequences, including diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1008982
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 25 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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