Fitness cost of extended lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans

Nicole L. Jenkins, Gawain McColl, Gordon J. Lithgow


An insulin/IGF–I–like signalling pathway determines the rate of aging of the adult nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans. Mutations in genes encoding this pathway can result in a doubling of lifespan. While such mutations may appear to have little effect on development or fertility, evolutionary theory predicts that large increases in lifespan will not be optimal for fitness. We demonstrate by laboratory natural selection that partial loss of function of the insulin receptor–like protein DAF–2 results in dramatically reduced fitness even under laboratory conditions. Despite long–lived mutants appearing healthy, they exhibit a heavy fitness cost consistent with an evolutionary theory of aging.