The scientists discovered that certain proteins, called extremely long-lived proteins (ELLPs), which are found on the surface of the nucleus of neurons, have a remarkably long lifespan.
This microscope image shows extremely long-lived proteins, or ELLPs, glowing green on the outside of the nucleus of a rat brain cell. DNA inside the nucleus is pictured in blue. The Salk scientists discovered that the ELLPs, which form channels through the wall of the nucleus, lasted for more than a year without being replaced. Deterioration of these proteins may allow toxins to enter the nucleus, resulting in cellular aging.
Credit: Courtesy of Brandon Toyama, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
While the lifespan of most proteins totals two days or less, the Salk Institute researchers identified ELLPs in the rat brain that were as old as the organism, a finding they reported today in Science.
The Salk scientists are the first to discover an essential intracellular machine whose components include proteins of this age. Their results suggest the proteins last an entire lifetime, without being replaced.
ELLPs make up the transport channels on the surface of the nucleus; gates that control what materials enter and exit. Their long lifespan might be an advantage if not for the wear-and-tear that these proteins experience over time. Unlike other proteins in the body, ELLPs are not replaced when they incur aberrant chemical modifications and other damage.
Damage to the ELLPs weakens the ability of the three-dimensional transport channels that are composed of these proteins to safeguard the cell's nucleus from toxins, says Martin Hetzer, a professor in Salk's Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, who headed the research. These toxins may alter the cell's DNA and thereby the activity of genes, resulting in cellular aging.
Funded by the Ellison Medical Foundation and the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, Hetzer's research group is the only lab in the world that is investigating the role of these transport channels, called the nuclear pore complex (NPC), in the aging process.
Previous studies have revealed that alterations in gene expression underlie the aging process. But, until the Hetzer lab's discovery that mammals' NPCs possess an Achilles' heel that allows DNA-damaging toxins to enter the nucleus, the scientific community has had few solid clues about how these gene alterations occur.
"The fundamental defining feature of aging is an overall decline in the functional capacity of various organs such as the heart and the brain," says Hetzer. "This decline results from deterioration of the homeostasis, or internal stability, within the constituent cells of those organs. Recent research in several laboratories has linked breakdown of protein homeostasis to declining cell function."
The results that Hetzer and his team report today suggest that declining neuron function may originate in ELLPs that deteriorate as a result of damage over time.
"Most cells, but not neurons, combat functional deterioration of their protein components through the process of protein turnover, in which the potentially impaired parts of the proteins are replaced with new functional copies," says Hetzer.
"Our results also suggest that nuclear pore deterioration might be a general aging mechanism leading to age-related defects in nuclear function, such as the loss of youthful gene expression programs," he adds.
The findings may prove relevant to understanding the molecular origins of aging and such neurodegenerative disorders as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
In previous studies, Hetzer and his team discovered large filaments in the nuclei of neurons of old mice and rats, whose origins they traced to the cytoplasm. Such filaments have been linked to various neurological disorders including Parkinson's disease. Whether the misplaced molecules are a cause, or a result, of the disease has not yet been determined.
Also in previous studies, Hetzer and his team documented age-dependent declines in the functioning of NPCs in the neurons of healthy aging rats, which are laboratory models of human biology.
Hetzer's team includes his colleagues at the Salk Institute as well as John Yates III, a professor in the Department of Chemical Physiology of The Scripps Research Institute.
When Hetzer decided three years ago to investigate whether the NPC plays a role in initiating or contributing to the onset of aging and certain neurodegenerative diseases, some members of the scientific community warned him that such a study was too bold and would be difficult and expensive to conduct. But Hetzer was determined despite the warnings.
He adds that without foundation funding, the study would not have progressed to the point that its findings are published in a leading journal.About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.
Andy Hoang | EurekAlert!
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy