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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2012, Article ID 608478, 14 pages
Review Article

ROS in Aging Caenorhabditis elegans: Damage or Signaling?

Laboratory for Aging Physiology and Molecular Evolution, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K. L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

Received 16 May 2012; Accepted 3 July 2012

Academic Editor: Vitor Costa

Copyright © 2012 Patricia Back et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Many insights into the mechanisms and signaling pathways underlying aging have resulted from research on the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In this paper, we discuss the recent findings that emerged using this model organism concerning the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the aging process. The accrual of oxidative stress and damage has been the predominant mechanistic explanation for the process of aging for many years, but reviewing the recent studies in C. elegans calls this theory into question. Thus, it becomes more and more evident that ROS are not merely toxic byproducts of the oxidative metabolism. Rather it seems more likely that tightly controlled concentrations of ROS and fluctuations in redox potential are important mediators of signaling processes. We therefore discuss some theories that explain how redox signaling may be involved in aging and provide some examples of ROS functions and signaling in C. elegans metabolism. To understand the role of ROS and the redox status in physiology, stress response, development, and aging, there is a rising need for accurate and reversible in vivo detection. Therefore, we comment on some methods of ROS and redox detection with emphasis on the implementation of genetically encoded biosensors in C. elegans.