• C. elegans;
  • DAF-12 (nuclear receptor);
  • DAF-9 (CYP-450);
  • germ cell ablation;
  • lifespan;
  • pregnenolone;
  • steroids


Removing the germline of Caenorhabditis elegans extends lifespan. This lifespan extension requires the nuclear receptor DAF-12 and the cytochrome P450 DAF-9, suggesting that a lipophilic hormone is involved. Here we show that C. elegans contains several hormonal steroids that are also present in humans, including pregnenolone (3β-hydroxy-pregn-5-en-20-one; PREG) and other pregnane and androstane derivatives. We find that PREG can extend the lifespan of C. elegans. Moreover, PREG levels rise when the germline is removed in a daf-9-dependent fashion. PREG extends the lifespan of germline-defective daf-9 mutants dramatically, but has no effect on daf-12 mutants. Thus, germline removal may extend lifespan, at least in part, by stimulating the synthesis of PREG.