Short-term enhancement of motor neuron synaptic exocytosis during early aging extends lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans

Tsui Ting Ching*, Yen Chieh Chen, Guang Li, Jianfeng Liu, XZ Shawn Xu, Ao Lin Hsu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Age-related mobility decline is often associated with negative physical and psychological outcomes, such as frailty, in the elderly population. In C. elegans, during the early stage of the aging process, a progressive deficit of synaptic exocytosis in the motor neurons results in a functional decline at the neuromuscular junctions, which eventually leads to degeneration of both neurons and muscles. This age-dependent functional decline can be ameliorated by pharmacological interventions, such as arecoline, a muscarinic AChR agonist known to promote synaptic exocytosis at the neuromuscular junctions. In this study, we found that a short-term treatment of arecoline during the early stage of aging, when the NMJ functional decline begins, not only slows muscle tissue aging, but also extends lifespan in C. elegans. We have also demonstrated that arecoline acts on the GAR-2/PLCβ pathway in the motor neurons to increases longevity. Together, our findings suggest that synaptic transmission in aging motor neurons may serve as a potential target for pharmacological interventions to promote both health span and lifespan, when applied at the early stage aging. Impact statement: The functional decline of motor activity is a common feature in almost all aging animals that leads to frailty, loss of independence, injury, and even death in the elderly population. Thus, understanding the molecular mechanism that drives the initial stage of this functional decline and developing strategies to increase human healthspan and even lifespan by targeting this process would be of great interests to the field. In this study, we found that by precisely targeting the motor neurons to potentiate its synaptic releases either genetically or pharmacologically, we can not only delay the functional aging at NMJs but also slow the rate of aging at the organismal level. Most importantly, we have demonstrated that a critical window of time, that is the early stage of NMJs functional decline, is required for the beneficial effects. A short-term treatment within this time period is sufficient to extend the animals’ lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1552-1559
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • C. elegans
  • aging
  • arecoline
  • Longevity
  • motor neuron
  • neuromuscular junction
  • synaptic exocytosis
  • tomosyn


Dive into the research topics of 'Short-term enhancement of motor neuron synaptic exocytosis during early aging extends lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this