Differences in longevity between sexes is a mysterious yet general phenomenon across great evolutionary distances. To test the roles of responses to environmental cues and sexual behaviors in longevity regulation, we examined Caenorhabditis male lifespan under solitary, grouped, and mated conditions. We find that neurons and the germline are required for male pheromone-dependent male death. Hermaphrodites with a masculinized nervous system secrete male pheromone and are susceptible to male pheromone killing. Male pheromone-mediated killing is unique to androdioecious Caenorhabditis, and may reduce the number of males in hermaphroditic populations; neither males nor females of gonochoristic species are susceptible to male pheromone killing. By contrast, mating-induced death, which is characterized by germline-dependent shrinking, glycogen loss, and ectopic vitellogenin expression, utilizes distinct molecular pathways and is shared between the sexes and across species. The study of sex- and species-specific regulation of aging reveals deeply conserved mechanisms of longevity and population structure regulation.
- Cheng Shi
- Coleen T Murphy
- Cheng Shi
- Alexi M Runnels
- Coleen T Murphy
- Coleen T Murphy
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Andrew Dillin, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, Berkeley, United States
© 2017, Shi et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Animal development requires coordination among cyclic processes, sequential cell fate specifications, and once-a-lifetime morphogenic events, but the underlying timing mechanisms are not well understood. Caenorhabditis elegans undergoes four molts at regular 8 to 10 hour intervals. The pace of the cycle is governed by PERIOD/lin-42 and other as-yet unknown factors. Cessation of the cycle in young adults is controlled by the let-7 family of microRNAs and downstream transcription factors in the heterochronic pathway. Here, we characterize a negative feedback loop between NHR-23, the worm homolog of mammalian retinoid-related orphan receptors (RORs), and the let-7 family of microRNAs that regulates both the frequency and finite number of molts. The molting cycle is decelerated in nhr-23 knockdowns and accelerated in let-7(−) mutants, but timed similarly in let-7(−) nhr-23(−) double mutants and wild-type animals. NHR-23 binds response elements (ROREs) in the let-7 promoter and activates transcription. In turn, let-7 dampens nhr-23 expression across development via a complementary let-7-binding site (LCS) in the nhr-23 3′ UTR. The molecular interactions between NHR-23 and let-7 hold true for other let-7 family microRNAs. Either derepression of nhr-23 transcripts by LCS deletion or high gene dosage of nhr-23 leads to protracted behavioral quiescence and extra molts in adults. NHR-23 and let-7 also coregulate scores of genes required for execution of the molts, including lin-42. In addition, ROREs and LCSs isolated from mammalian ROR and let-7 genes function in C. elegans, suggesting conservation of this feedback mechanism. We propose that this feedback loop unites the molting timer and the heterochronic gene regulatory network, possibly by functioning as a cycle counter.
During embryonic development cells acquire identity at the same time as they are proliferating, implying that an intrinsic facet of cell fate choice requires coupling lineage decisions to rates of cell division. How is the cell cycle regulated to promote or suppress heterogeneity and differentiation? We explore this question combining time lapse imaging with single cell RNA-seq in the contexts of self-renewal, priming and differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) towards the Primitive Endoderm lineage (PrE). Since ESCs are derived from the Inner Cell Mass of the mammalian blastocyst, ESCs in standard culture conditions are transcriptionally heterogeneous containing subfractions that are primed for either of the two ICM lineages, Epiblast and PrE. These subfractions represent dynamic states that can readily interconvert in culture, and the PrE subfraction is functionally primed for endoderm differentiation. Here we find that differential regulation of cell cycle can tip the balance between these primed populations, such that naïve ESC culture conditions promote Epiblast-like expansion and PrE differentiation stimulates the selective survival and proliferation of PrE-primed cells. In endoderm differentiation, we find that this change is accompanied by a counter-intuitive increase in G1 length that also appears replicated in vivo. While FGF/ERK signalling is a known key regulator of ESCs and PrE differentiation, we find it is not just responsible for ESCs heterogeneity, but also cell cycle synchronisation, required for the inheritance of similar cell cycles between sisters and cousins. Taken together, our results point to a tight relationship between transcriptional heterogeneity and cell cycle regulation in the context of lineage priming, with primed cell populations providing a pool of flexible cell types that can be expanded in a lineage-specific fashion while allowing plasticity during early determination.