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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2001 Jul;56(7):B281-7

Heat shock protein accumulation is upregulated in a long-lived mutant of Caenorhabditis elegans.

Walker GA, White TM, McColl G, Jenkins NL, Babich S, Candido EP, Johnson TE, Lithgow GJ.

School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, United Kingdom.

We present evidence for elevated levels of heat shock protein 16 (HSP16) in an intrinsically thermotolerant, long-lived strain of Caenorhabditis elegans during and after heat stress. Mutation of the age-1 gene, encoding a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase catalytic subunit, results in both extended life span (Age) and increased intrinsic thermotolerance (Itt) in adult hermaphrodites. We subjected age-synchronous cohorts of worms to lethal and nonlethal thermal stress and observed the accumulation of a small (16-18 kd) heat-shock-specific polypeptide detected by an antibody raised against C. elegans HSP16. Strains carrying the mutation hx546 consistently accumulated HSP16 to higher levels than a wild-type strain. Significantly, overaccumulation of HSP16 in the age-1(hx546) strain following heat was observed throughout the adult life span. A chimeric transgene containing the Escherichia coli beta-galactosidase gene fused to a C. elegans HSP16-41 transcriptional promoter was introduced into wild-type and age-1(hx546) backgrounds. Heat-inducible expression of the transgene was elevated in the age-1(hx546) strain compared with the wild-type strain under a wide variety of heat shock and recovery conditions. These observations are consistent with a model in which Age mutations exhibit thermotolerance and extended life span as a result of elevated levels of molecular chaperones.