Budovskaya YV, Wu K, Southworth LK, Jiang M, Tedesco P, Johnson TE, Kim SK.
Department of Developmental Biology, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
To define the C. elegans aging process at the molecular level, we used DNA microarray experiments to identify a set of 1294 age-regulated genes and found that the GATA transcription factors ELT-3, ELT-5, and ELT-6 are responsible for age regulation of a large fraction of these genes. Expression of elt-5 and elt-6 increases during normal aging, and both of these GATA factors repress expression of elt-3, which shows a corresponding decrease in expression in old worms. elt-3 regulates a large number of downstream genes that change expression in old age, including ugt-9, col-144, and sod-3. elt-5(RNAi) and elt-6(RNAi) worms have extended longevity, indicating that elt-3, elt-5, and elt-6 play an important functional role in the aging process. These results identify a transcriptional circuit that guides the rapid aging process in C. elegans and indicate that this circuit is driven by drift of developmental pathways rather than accumulation of damage.