Recent studies on Caenorhabditis elegans reveal that gene manipulations can extend its lifespan several fold. However, how the genes work together to determine longevity is still an open question. Here we construct a gene regulatory network for worm ageing and quantify its underlying potential and flux landscape. We found ageing and rejuvenation states can emerge as basins of attraction at certain gene expression levels. The system state can switch from one attractor to another driven by the intrinsic or external perturbations through genetics or the environment. Furthermore, we simulated gene silencing experiments and found that the silencing of longevity-promoting or lifespan-limiting genes leads to ageing or rejuvenation domination, respectively. This indicates that the difference in depths between ageing and the rejuvenation attractor is highly correlated with worm longevity. We further uncovered some key genes and regulations which have a strong influence on landscape basin stability. A dynamic landscape model is proposed to describe the whole process of ageing: the ageing attractor dominates when senescence progresses. We also uncovered the oscillation dynamics, and a similar behaviour was observed in the long-lived creature Turritopsis dohrnii. Our landscape theory provides a global and physical approach to explore the underlying mechanisms of ageing.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3577184.
- Received May 30, 2016.
- Accepted November 7, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.