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Science 326 (5955): 954-958

Copyright © 2009 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Starvation Protects Germline Stem Cells and Extends Reproductive Longevity in C. elegans

Giana Angelo, and Marc R. Van Gilst*

Abstract: The study of starvation-resistant biological programs has elucidated numerous mechanisms influencing aging. Here we present the discovery and characterization of starvation-induced adult reproductive diapause (ARD) in Caenorhabditis elegans. ARD differs from the C. elegans dauer diapause in that it enables sexually mature adults to delay reproductive onset 15-fold and extend total adult life span at least threefold. The effectiveness of ARD requires apoptotic death of the entire germ line, except for a small population of protected germline stem cells (GSCs). When feeding is resumed, surviving GSCs regenerate a new germ line capable of offspring production near the level of nonstarved animals. The starvation-sensing nuclear receptor NHR-49 is required for ARD entry and recovery. Our findings establish mechanisms for preserving stem cell potency and reproductive potential during prolonged starvation.

Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: vangilst{at}

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