GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Heidi A. Tissenbaum


Longevity, Transcription Factors, Caenorhabditis elegans, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 8


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.



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