UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS
Over the next several years, the number of older individuals in the U.S. population will increase dramatically. Associated with this aging population, will be a large surge in the number of cases of age-associated illnesses. Understanding the aging process at the molecular level will undoubtedly give important clues to combat these illnesses. We seek to increase the health of individuals by delaying the onset of age-associated illnesses. Studies on aging over the past decade from many labs have revealed the importance of the forkhead transcription family (FOXO). In this proposal, we use the nematode, C. elegans as our model system because it has a single well-conserved FOXO family member, DAF-16. Altering levels of this protein lead to changes in life span, fat storage, dauer diapause and stress resistance. We seek to define how daf-16 coordinates its multiple input and output signals to specify multiple developmental programs such as life span, fat storage, stress resistance, and development. To accomplish this goal, in the first aim of this grant, we will use cutting edge technologies to identify DAF-16 interacting proteins and determine how they influence target choice. Second, we will define DAF-16 direct targets using genome wide approaches. These studies will which push towards a biochemical and genomic understanding of the aging process. In addition, we define how one protein can regulate multiple processes. The high degree of conservation between worms and mammals in this pathway indicate that these studies will also undoubtedly have implications for our understanding of the mammalian aging process.