To understand and control aging is the aspiration of many scientists. Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have now discovered that the protein Gcn4 decreases protein synthesis and extends the life of yeast cells. Understanding how individual genes affect lifespan opens new ways to control the aging process and the occurrence of aging-related diseases. The results of this study have recently been published in “Nature Communications”.
For about one hundred years it has been known that nutrient restriction and moderate stress can significantly prolong life. The researchers led by Prof. Mihaela Zavolan and Prof. Anne Spang, both at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, have discovered how the transcription factor Gcn4, a protein that regulates the expression of many genes, extends the life of baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In various stress situations, the cells stimulate Gcn4 production which leads to reduced biosynthesis of new proteins and increased yeast lifespan.
Transcription factor represses protein synthesis
It has long been known that protein synthesis – also known as translation – plays an important role in aging. Inhibition of protein synthesis, caused for example by reduced nutrient intake, can have a positive effect on the life expectancy of diverse organisms such as yeast, flies, worms or fish. Reducing the ribosomes, the protein factories of the cell, can also considerably extend the lifespan of yeast cells.
What these cellular stresses have in common is that they activate the production of Gcn4. However, how this protein promotes longevity has remained unclear.
In their study, the team working with Zavolan exposed yeast cells to different stress conditions, measured their lifespan, protein synthesis rates and Gcn4 expression. “We observed that the level of the Gcn4 protein was positively correlated with the longevity of yeast cells,” says Mihaela Zavolan, Professor of Computational and Systems Biology.
“However, we wanted to understand why. We have now shown for the first time that it is the transcriptional suppression of genes that are important for cellular protein synthesis by Gcn4 that seems to account for its lifespan extension effect. As the translation machinery is limiting, the energy-intensive production of new proteins is overall dampened.” From the yeast cell’s point of view, this is an advantage: This enables them to live about 40 percent longer than usual.
Transcription factor is highly conserved in many organisms
The transcription factor Gcn4 is conserved in over 50 different organisms, including mammals, and it likely play a significant role in the aging of these organisms as well.
Zavolan’s group will now investigate whether the mammalian homolog similarly slows aging and extends lifespan by regulating protein synthesis genes in response to nutrients and stress.
Nitish Mittal, Joao C. Guimaraes, Thomas Gross, Alexander Schmidt, Arnau Vina-Vilaseca, Danny D. Nedialkova, Florian Aeschimann, Sebastian A. Leidel, Anne Spang, Mihaela Zavolan
The Gcn4 transcription factor reduces protein synthesis capacity and extends yeast lifespan
Nature Communications (2017), doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00539-y
Prof. Dr. Mihaela Zavolan, University of Basel, Biozentrum, Tel. +41 61 207 15 77, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Katrin Bühler, University of Basel, Biozentrum, Communications, Tel. +41 61 207 09 74, email: email@example.com
Dr. Katrin Bühler | Universität Basel
One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy