Gengnianchun (GNC), a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), is primarily used to improve declining functions related to aging. In this study, we investigated its prolongevity and stress resistance properties and explored the associated regulatory mechanism using a Caenorhabditis elegans model. Methods. Wild-type C. elegans N2 was used for lifespan analysis and oxidative stress resistance assays. Transgenic animals were used to investigate pathways associated with antioxidative stress activity. The effects of GNC on levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and expression of specific genes were examined.
GNC-treated wild-type worms showed an increase in survival time under both normal and oxidative stress conditions. GNC decreased intracellular ROS levels by 67.95%. GNC significantly enhanced the oxidative stress resistance of several mutant strains, suggesting that the protective effect of GNC is independent of the function of these genes. However, the oxidative stress resistance effect of GNC was absent in worms with daf-16 mutation. We also found upregulation of daf-16 downstream targets including sod-3 and mtl-1.
Our findings suggest that GNC extends the lifespan of C. elegans and enhances its resistance to oxidative stress via a daf-16/FOXO-dependent pathway. This study also provides a feasible method for screening the biological mechanisms of TCMs.