Organisms that protect their germ-cell lineages from damage often do so at considerable cost: limited metabolic resources become partitioned away from maintenance of the soma, leaving the ageing somatic tissues to navigate survival amid an environment containing damaged and poorly functioning proteins. Historically, experimental paradigms that limit reproductive investment result in lifespan extension. We proposed that germline-deficient animals might exhibit heightened protection from proteotoxic stressors in somatic tissues. We find that the forced re-investment of resources from the germ line to the soma in Caenorhabditis elegans results in elevated somatic proteasome activity, clearance of damaged proteins and increased longevity. This activity is associated with increased expression of rpn-6, a subunit of the 19S proteasome, by the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16. Ectopic expression of rpn-6 is sufficient to confer proteotoxic stress resistance and extend lifespan, indicating that rpn-6 is a candidate to correct deficiencies in age-related protein homeostasis disorders.
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