Improving health of the rapidly growing aging population is a critical medical, social, and economic goal. Identification of genes that modulate healthspan, the period of mid-life vigor that precedes significant functional decline, will be an essential part of the effort to design anti-aging therapies. Because locomotory decline in humans is a major contributor to frailty and loss of independence and because slowing of movement is a conserved feature of aging across phyla, we screened for genetic interventions that extend locomotory healthspan of Caenorhabditis elegans. From a group of 54 genes previously noted to encode secreted proteins similar in sequence to extracellular domains of insulin receptor, we identified two genes for which RNAi knockdown delayed age-associated locomotory decline, conferring a high performance in advanced age phenotype (Hpa). Unexpectedly, we found that hpa-1 and hpa-2 act through the EGF pathway, rather than the insulin signaling pathway, to control systemic healthspan benefits without detectable developmental consequences. Further analysis revealed a potent role of EGF signaling, acting via downstream phospholipase C-c plc-3 and inositol-3-phosphate receptor itr-1, to promote healthy aging associated with low lipofuscin levels, enhanced physical performance, and extended lifespan. This study identifies HPA-1 and HPA-2 as novel negative regulators of EGF signaling and constitutes the first report of EGF signaling as a major pathway for healthy aging. Our data raise the possibility that EGF family members should be investigated for similar activities in higher organisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology
- Behavioral decline
- EGF signaling
- IP3 signaling