Mutations in the age-1 gene double both the mean and maximum life span of Caenorhabditis elegans. They also result in an age-specific increase of catalase and Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase activity levels. The higher superoxide dismutase activity levels in age-1 mutants confer hyperresistance to the superoxide-anion-generating drug paraquat. The rate of superoxide anion production by microsome fractions declines linearly with age in age-1(+) worms, but, after an initial decline, is stabilized at a higher level in senescent age-1 mutant nematodes. These results clearly show that oxidative stress resistance and potential life span are correlated in this organism, and they suggest that the natural product of age-1 either directly or indirectly downregulates the activities of several other genes as a function of age.