Research Highlights

Thermosensory Neurons Control Lifespan of Ectotherms (2009.4.21)

2010-01-12 663

Astudy revealed that thermosensory neurons of ectotherms affect lifespan at warm temperature by changing the activity of a steroid-signaling pathway that regulates longevity.

Professor Seung-Jae Lee (Department of Life Science, School of Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Bioengineering, Division of IT Convergence Engineering) and his team, in collaboration with University of California, San Francisco, discovered that thermosensory neurons of C. elegans (Caenorhabditis elegans), an ectotherm, actively regulates the temperature dependence of lifespan.

Many ectotherms, including C. elegans, have shorter lifespan at high temperature than at low temperature. This is generally attributed to the effect of temperature on metabolic rates: at 25°C, the “rate of living” is accelerated because of the increased rate of chemical reactions including growth and digestion, and the C. elegans ages more quickly and has a shorter lifespan than at the temperature of 15°C.

Professor Lee found through his research that without the thermosensory neurons, the lifespan of the C. elegans is much shorter, and that the thermosensory neurons influence lifespan at high temperature by changing the activities of the steroid-signaling pathway.

The research group concluded that this thermosensory system allows C. elegans to reduce the effect that warm temperature would otherwise have on processes that affect aging, something that warm-blooded animals do by controlling temperature itself.

Professor Lee explained that the thermosensory system of C. elegans “controls the aging to progress at a normal rate even at a high temperature,” and that the study indicates that ectotherms regulate their lifespan by controlling their physical response to high temperature.

Professor Cynthia Kenyon of University of California, San Francisco, who collaborated in the research, evaluated the results to be “an outstanding achievement that would rewrite the chapter on ectotherms in high school biology textbooks.”

Professor Lee’s research is to be supported by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s World Class University program, continuing to use the C. elegans to identify genes that regulate the aging process, and their operational processes.

The results of the study were published in Current Biology Volume 19, Number 9.

Professor Seung-Jae Lee
Department of Life Science
School of Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Bioengineering
Division of IT Convergence Engineering
Tel: +82-54-279-2351
Fax: +82-54-279-2199
E-mail: seungjaelee@postech.ac.kr