The lifespan of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is regulated by sensory signals detected by the amphid neurons. In these neurons, C. elegans expresses at least 14 Galpha subunits and a Ggamma subunit. We have identified seven sensory Galpha subunits that modulate lifespan. Genetic experiments suggest that multiple sensory signaling pathways exist that modulate lifespan and that some G proteins function in multiple pathways, most of which, but probably not all, involve insulin/IGF-1 like signaling. Interestingly, of the sensory G proteins involved in regulating lifespan, only one Galpha probably functions directly in the detection of sensory cues. The other G proteins seem to function in modulating the sensitivity of the sensory neurons. We hypothesize that in addition to the mere detection of sensory cues, regulation of the sensitivity of sensory neurons also plays a role in the regulation of lifespan.

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New York Academy of Sciences. Annals
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

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