The gene DAF-16 helps determine the rate of aging and the average life span of Caenorhabditis elegans and its close evolutionary cousins, researchers at the University of Birmingham said.
The gene is found in many other animals, including humans, said researcher Robin May, who led the study.
May's team compared longevity, stress resistance and immunity in four related species of worms. In general, high levels of DAF-16 activity correlated with longer life, increased stress resistance and greater immunity against some infections.
Future studies will examine how DAF-16 coordinates a complex network of genes to balance the differing needs of an individual's immune system over time, May said in Thursday's edition of PLoS ONE.