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Genetics 2000 Apr;154(4):1597-610

Genetic, behavioral and environmental determinants of male longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans.

Gems D, Riddle DL

The Galton Laboratory, Department of Biology, University College London, England.

Males of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are shorter lived than hermaphrodites when maintained in single-sex groups. We observed that groups of young males form clumps and that solitary males live longer, indicating that male-male interactions reduce life span. By contrast, grouped or isolated hermaphrodites exhibited the same longevity. In one wild isolate of C. elegans, AB2, there was evidence of copulation between males. Nine uncoordinated (unc) mutations were used to block clumping behavior. These mutations had little effect on hermaphrodite life span in most cases, yet many increased male longevity even beyond that of solitary wild-type males. In one case, the neuronal function mutant unc-64(e246), hermaphrodite life span was also increased by up to 60%. The longevity of unc-4(e120), unc-13(e51), and unc-32(e189) males exceeded that of hermaphrodites by 70-120%. This difference appears to reflect a difference in sex-specific life span potential revealed in the absence of male behavior that is detrimental to survival. The greater longevity of males appears not to be affected by daf-2, but is influenced by daf-16. In the absence of male-male interactions, median (but not maximum) male life span was variable. This variability was reduced when dead bacteria were used as food. Maintenance on dead bacteria extended both male and hermaphrodite longevity.