• Open Access

Altered bacterial metabolism, not coenzyme Q content, is responsible for the lifespan extension in Caenorhabditis elegans fed an Escherichia coli diet lacking coenzyme Q


Catherine F. Clarke, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, 607 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1569, USA. Tel.: 310-825-0771; fax: 310-206-5213; e-mail: cathy@chem.ucla.edu


Coenzyme Qn is a fully substituted benzoquinone containing a polyisoprene tail of distinct numbers (n) of isoprene groups. Caenorhabditis elegans fed Escherichia coli devoid of Q8 have a significant lifespan extension when compared to C. elegans fed a standard ‘Q-replete’E. coli diet. Here we examine possible mechanisms for the lifespan extension caused by the Q-less E. coli diet. A bioassay for Q uptake shows that a water-soluble formulation of Q10 is effectively taken up by both clk-1 mutant and wild-type nematodes, but does not reverse lifespan extension mediated by the Q-less E. coli diet, indicating that lifespan extension is not due to the absence of dietary Q per se. The enhanced longevity mediated by the Q-less E. coli diet cannot be attributed to dietary restriction, different Qn isoforms, reduced pathogenesis or slowed growth of the Q-less E. coli, and in fact requires E. coli viability. Q-less E. coli have defects in respiratory metabolism. C. elegans fed Q-replete E. coli mutants with similarly impaired respiratory metabolism due to defects in complex V also show a pronounced lifespan extension, although not as dramatic as those fed the respiratory deficient Q-less E. coli diet. The data suggest that feeding respiratory incompetent E. coli, whether Q-less or Q-replete, produces a robust life extension in wild-type C. elegans. We believe that the fermentation-based metabolism of the E. coli diet is an important parameter of C. elegans longevity.