Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gene Critical for Neurotransmitter Synthesis Also Affects Longevity

31.07.2003


Dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, are intimately involved in muscle control, memory, sleep, and emotional behavior. They are also linked to illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and mood disorders. Now, regulation of longevity may be added to this list.



Three natural variants in the gene for DOPA decarboxylase (DDC), an enzyme required for the production of dopamine and serotonin, together accounted for 15 percent of the genetic contribution to variation in life span among strains of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, according to recent research by geneticists at North Carolina State University.

“This is a surprisingly large effect for a gene affecting a complex trait, such as longevity or body size, which is typically controlled by many genes with relatively small effects,” said Dr. Trudy Mackay, William Neal Reynolds Professor of genetics at NC State and director of the study. Results of the study appear in the paper “Dopa decarboxylase affects variation in Drosophila longevity,” published in the July 27 online edition of Nature Genetics.


The fruit fly is a handy model organism for studying the genetics of longevity and other complex traits in animals. “We can make designer genotypes in fruit flies and test the effects of mutations,” said Mackay.

The three variants interacted in a complex way to affect variation in longevity. Some variants in the DDC gene increased life span of the fruit flies and others decreased it. Interestingly, some variants that were associated with increased life span were not present in the population as frequently as expected, while others associated with decreased life span were more common than expected. Natural selection processes do not simply favor longevity; instead, they promote variability in life span.

The research was a collaboration among scientists at NC State University and the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. It was funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Russian Fund of Basic Research, and the Russian Academy of Science.

“Our results have real implications for humans,” said Mackay. “The DDC gene is a strong candidate for regulation of longevity in humans. The various genome projects active today have revealed an astounding similarity in the genetic makeup of organisms as disparate as yeast, Drosophila, and humans. For instance, over two-thirds of the known human disease genes have corresponding genes in Drosophila, and genes affecting key biological processes seem to be conserved across all animals.”

Mackay and her team of geneticists have been working to identify genes affecting life span in Drosophila in order to discover the genetic basis of complex traits: what genes and mutations affect the trait, how genes interact with other genes and with the environment, and the molecular basis of the interactions.

“If everything is interactive, the effect of a single gene on a complex trait may be marginal,” said Mackay. “But it’s not impossible to foresee future pharmacological interventions that could improve the quality of life of the aging population.”

Abstract: Mutational analyses in model organisms have shown that genes affecting metabolism and stress resistance regulate life span1, but the genes responsible for variation in longevity in natural populations are largely unidentified. Previously, we mapped quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting variation in longevity between two Drosophila melanogaster strains2. Here, we show that the longevity QTL in the 36E; 38B cytogenetic interval on chromosome 2 contains multiple closely linked QTL, including the Dopa decarboxylase (Ddc) locus. Complementation tests to mutations show that Ddc is a positional candidate gene for life span in these strains. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) mapping in a sample of 173 alleles from a single population shows that three common molecular polymorphisms in Ddc account for 15.5% of the genetic contribution to variance in life span from chromosome 2. The polymorphisms are in strong LD, and the effects of the haplotypes on longevity suggest maintenance of the polymorphisms by balancing selection. DDC catalyzes the final step in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin3. Thus, these data implicate variation in the synthesis of bioamines as a major factor contributing to natural variation in individual life span.

Dr. Trudy Mackay | North Carolina State University
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>