Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How Chromosome Ends Influence Cellular Aging

11.09.2013
Heidelberg researchers study the function of telomeres in cellular aging processes

By studying processes that occur at the ends of chromosomes, a team of Heidelberg researchers has unravelled an important mechanism towards a better understanding of cellular aging.

The scientists focused on the length of the chromosome ends, the so-called telomeres, which can be experimentally manipulated. Their research, which was conducted at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH), allows for new approaches in the development of therapies for tissue loss and organ failure associated with senescence (cellular aging). The research results may also be significant for cancer treatment. They were recently published in the journal “Nature Structural & Molecular Biology”.

Each cell contains a set of chromosomes in which the vast majority of our genetic information is stored in the form of DNA. This information must be protected to ensure the proper functioning of the cell. To achieve this, the very ends of the chromosomes, the telomeres, play an important role in protecting the chromosomal DNA from being degraded. “We can imagine that telomeres are analogous to the plastic caps at the ends of our shoelaces. Without them, the ends of the laces get frayed and eventually the entire shoelace does not function properly,” explains Dr. Brian Luke. His research group at the ZMBH is primarily focused on understanding how telomeres protect DNA.

It is well known in the scientific community that telomeres shorten every time a cell divides and eventually become so short that they can no longer protect the chromosomes. The unprotected chromosome ends send signals that stop the cell from dividing further, a state referred to as “senescence”. Senescent cells occur more frequently as we age, which can contribute to tissue loss and organ failure. “In certain diseases, patients already have very short telomeres at birth and as a result they experience severe tissue loss and organ dysfunction at an early age”, says the Heidelberg scientist.

The research group headed by Dr. Luke has now discovered that turning transcription on or off at telomeres can have drastic effects on their length. Transcription is the process of making an RNA molecule from DNA. It has only recently been shown to occur at telomeres, but the functional significance of this discovery has remained a mystery. Molecular biologists Bettina Balk and André Maicher were now able to show that the RNA itself is the key regulator that drives telomere length changes, especially when it sticks to telomeric DNA to make a so-called “RNA-DNA hybrid molecule”.

“We experimentally changed the amount of RNA-DNA hybrids at the chromosome ends. We can thus either accelerate or diminish the rate of cellular senescence directly by affecting telomere length,” explains Bettina Balk. According to André Maicher, this could be a first step towards telomere-based therapies for tissue loss or organ failure. With respect to diseases, it remains to be determined whether altering transcription rates at telomeres does indeed improve health status. This approach is also significant for cancer cells, which do not senesce and are thus considered immortal. “Transcription-based telomere length control may therefore also be applicable to cancer treatment,” Dr. Luke emphasizes.

The junior research group of Dr. Luke is a member of the Network Aging Research (NAR) at Heidelberg University and receives funding by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung. Further funding comes from the German Research Foundation in the framework of Heidelberg University’s Collaborative Research Centre “Cellular Surveillance and Damage Response” (SFB 1036).

Original publication:
B. Balk, A. Maicher, M. Dees, J. Klermund, S. Luke-Glaser, K. Bender & B. Luke: Telomeric RNA-DNA hybrids affect telomere length dynamics and senescence; Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. (8 September 2013), DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.2662
Contact:
Dr. Brian Luke
Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University
Phone +49 6221 54-6897, b.luke@zmbh.uni-heidelberg.de
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>