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Multiple stressors in Caenorhabditis elegans induce stress hormesis and extended longevity.

Cypser JR, Johnson TE.

Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, Boulder 80303, USA.

We demonstrate here that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans displays broad hormetic abilities. Hormesis is the induction of beneficial effects by exposure to low doses of otherwise harmful chemical or physical agents. Heat as well as pretreatment with hyperbaric oxygen or juglone (a chemical that generates reactive oxygen species) significantly increased subsequent resistance to the same challenge. Cross-tolerance between juglone and oxygen was also observed. The same heat or oxygen pretreatment regimens that induced subsequent stress resistance also increased life expectancy and maximum life span of populations undergoing normal aging. Pretreatment with ultraviolet or ionizing radiation did not promote subsequent resistance or increased longevity. In dose-response studies, induced thermotolerance paralleled the induced increase in life expectancy, which is consistent with a common origin.