October 2005

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Document Type

Dissertation, Doctoral


Longevity; Transcription Factors; Caenorhabditis elegans; Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 8; Academic Dissertations; Dissertations, UMMS


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


The insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway plays a pivotal role in life span regulation in diverse organisms. In Caenorhabditis elegans, a PI 3-kinase signaling cascade downstream of DAF-2, an ortholog of the mammalian insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) receptor, negatively regulates DAF-16/forkhead transcription factor. DAF-16 then regulates a wide variety of genes involved in longevity, stress response, metabolism and development. DAF-16 also receives signals from other pathways regulating life span and development. However, the precise mechanism by which DAF-16 directs multiple functions is poorly understood.

First, in Chapter II, we demonstrate that JNK is a novel positive regulator of DAF-16 in both life span regulation and stress resistance. Our genetic analysis suggests that the JNK pathway acts in parallel with the insulin-like signaling pathway to regulate life span and both pathways converge onto DAF-16. We also show that JNK-1 directly interacts with and phosphorylates DAF-16. Moreover, in response to heat stress, JNK-1 promotes the translocation of DAF-16 into thc nucleus. Our findings define a novel interaction between the stress response pathway (JNK) and the master regulator of life span (DAF-16), and provide a mechanism by which JNK regulates longevity and stress resistance.

Next, in Chapter III, we focus on the downstream targets of DAF-16. Here, we used a modified chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) method to identify direct target promoters of DAF-16. We cloned 103 target sequences containing consensus DAF-16 binding sites and randomly selected 33 targets for further analysis. The expression of majority of these genes is regulated in a DAF-16-dependent manner. Moreover, inactivation of more than 50% of these genes significantly altered DAF-16-dependent functions such as longevity, fat storage and dauer diapause. Our results show that the ChIP-based cloning strategy leads to greater enrichment of DAF-16 target genes, compared to previous studies using DNA micro array or bioinformatics. We also demonstrate that DAF-16 is recruited to multiple promoters to coordinate regulation of its downstream target genes.

In summary, we identified the JNK signaling pathway as a novel input into DAF-16 to adapt animals to the environmental stresses. We also revealed a large number of novel outputs of DAF-16. Taken together, these studies provide insight into the complex regulation by DAF-16 to control diverse biological functions and eventually broaden our understanding of aging.