The correlation between longevity and stress resistance observed in long-lived mutant animals suggests that the ability to sense and respond to environmental challenges could be important for the regulation of life span. We therefore examined the role of heat shock factor (HSF-1), a master transcriptional regulator of stress-inducible gene expression and protein folding homeostasis, in the regulation of longevity. Down-regulation of hsf-1 by RNA interference suppressed longevity of mutants in an insulin-like signaling (ILS) pathway that functions in the nervous system of Caenorhabditis elegans to influence aging. hsf-1 was also required for temperature-induced dauer larvae formation in an ILS mutant. Using tissue-specific expression of wild-type or dominant negative HSF-1, we demonstrated that HSF-1 acts in multiple tissues to regulate longevity. Down-regulation of individual molecular chaperones, transcriptional targets of HSF-1, also decreased longevity of long-lived mutant but not wild-type animals. However, suppression by individual chaperones was to a lesser extent, suggesting an important role for networks of chaperones. The interaction of ILS with HSF-1 could represent an important molecular strategy to couple the regulation of longevity with an ancient genetic switch that governs the ability of cells to sense and respond to stress.
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