An excreted small molecule promotes C. elegans reproductive development and aging

Andreas H. Ludewig, Alexander B. Artyukhin, Erin Z. Aprison, Pedro R. Rodrigues, Dania C. Pulido, Russell N. Burkhardt, Oishika Panda, Ying K. Zhang, Pooja Gudibanda, Ilya Ruvinsky, Frank C. Schroeder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Excreted small-molecule signals can bias developmental trajectories and physiology in diverse animal species. However, the chemical identity of these signals remains largely obscure. Here we report identification of an unusual N-acylated glutamine derivative, nacq#1, that accelerates reproductive development and shortens lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans. Produced predominantly by C. elegans males, nacq#1 hastens onset of sexual maturity in hermaphrodites by promoting exit from the larval dauer diapause and by accelerating late larval development. Even at picomolar concentrations, nacq#1 shortens hermaphrodite lifespan, suggesting a trade-off between reproductive investment and longevity. Acceleration of development by nacq#1 requires chemosensation and is dependent on three homologs of vertebrate steroid hormone receptors. Unlike ascaroside pheromones, which are restricted to nematodes, fatty acylated amino acid derivatives similar to nacq#1 have been reported from humans and invertebrates, suggesting that related compounds may serve signaling functions throughout metazoa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)838-845
Number of pages8
JournalNature Chemical Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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