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Keywords:

  • aging;
  • C. elegans;
  • genome;
  • nematode;
  • oldest old;
  • variability

Summary

The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has become one of the most widely used model systems for the study of aging, yet very little is known about how C. elegans age. The development of the worm, from egg to young adult has been completely mapped at the cellular level, but such detailed studies have not been extended throughout the adult lifespan. Numerous single gene mutations, drug treatments and environmental manipulations have been found to extend worm lifespan. To interpret the mechanism of action of such aging interventions, studies to characterize normal worm aging, similar to those used to study worm development are necessary. We have used 4′,6′-diamidino-2-phenylindole hydrochloride staining and quantitative polymerase chain reaction to investigate the integrity of nuclei and quantify the nuclear genome copy number of C. elegans with age. We report both systematic loss of nuclei or nuclear DNA, as well as dramatic age-related changes in nuclear genome copy number. These changes are delayed or attenuated in long-lived daf-2 mutants. We propose that these changes are important pathobiological characteristics of aging nematodes.