C. elegans hermaphrodites display dramatic age-related decline of reproduction early in life, while somatic functions are still robust. To understand reproductive aging, we analyzed the assembly line of oocyte production that generates fertilized eggs. Aging germlines displayed both sporadic and population-wide changes. A small fraction of aging animals displayed endomitotic oocytes in the germline and other defects. By contrast, all animals displayed age-related decreases in germline size and function. As early as day 3 of adulthood, animals displayed fewer stem cells and a slower cell cycle, which combine to substantially decrease progenitor zone output. The C. elegans germline is the only adult tissue that contains stem cells, allowing the analysis of stem cells in aging. To investigate the mechanism of the decrease in stem cell number, we analyzed the Notch signaling pathway. The Notch effectors LST-1 and SYGL-1 displayed agerelated decreases in expression domains, suggesting a role for Notch signaling in germline aging. The results indicate that although sporadic defects account for the sterility of some animals, population-wide changes account for the overall pattern of reproductive aging.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdev173195
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge)
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


  • Caenorhabditis
  • Cell cycle
  • Endomitotic oocytes
  • Germline
  • Meiotic development
  • Notch
  • Reproductive aging
  • Stem cells


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