In a triumph for pests, scientists have figured out how to make the fruit fly live longer.
But humans still may get something out of the deal. As reported online in Nature Chemical Biology, the discovery that a single protein can inhibit aging holds implications for human longevity and for treatment of some of the world’s most feared diseases.
“This work is important for two reasons,” said study author Richard Roberts, associate professor of chemistry, chemical engineering and biology at the University of Southern California.
“First, it demonstrates that a single inhibitor can dramatically alter lifespan, a very complex trait. It is remarkable that you can alter it with a single genetic change.
“We don’t really need to make fruit flies live longer, but if we understand how to do this, our approach may have direct application to higher organisms, such as ourselves.”
Secondly, Roberts said, the method used by his research group to make the inhibiting proteins “opens the possibility of developing a lot of new therapeutics.”
The study describes a new method for blocking receptors involved in aging and disease across many species, including humans.
Receptors are proteins that transmit signals across a cell membrane. In the fruit fly, Roberts and his team manufactured short proteins that blocked a receptor involved in fruit fly aging, as previously demonstrated by co-author Seymour Benzer of Caltech.
Flies with a blocked receptor saw their lives extended by a third, with no apparent side effects.
The same blocking strategy should work in all such receptors, known as class B GPCRs (for G protein-coupled receptors). Many GPCRs figure prominently in disease as well as in normal development, Roberts said.
“It is the most targeted family of receptors” by drug manufacturers, Roberts said, estimating that a quarter of all pharmaceuticals focus on GPCRs.
“This approach should be generally applicable.”
And generally powerful, given that GPCRs are notoriously unstable and difficult to work with. The Roberts group went around the problem by cutting off the unstable part of the receptor and running experiments only on the part of the receptor that sticks out of the cell.
Though there were no guarantees that inhibiting one part of the receptor would incapacitate the whole, the strategy succeeded.
Roberts’ method builds on his co-discovery, in 1997, of a simple method for building libraries of trillions of short proteins, or peptides.
Unlike DNA, which can be copied and multiplied millions of times with polymerase chain reaction (PCR), proteins cannot be copied directly.
But Roberts and Jack Szostak of Massachusetts General Hospital thought of fusing peptides to the bits of messenger RNA that contained their sequence.
“Essentially, we developed a way to do PCR on proteins,” Roberts said.
The use of RNA-peptide fusions allowed the easy creation and multiplication of randomly generated peptides. Roberts termed this approach “Irrational Design.”
In the new study, Roberts and his group literally threw trillions of peptides at the receptor and saved the ones that stuck.
“We let the molecules themselves decide if they bind, rather than trying to design them rationally,” he said.
After multiple cycles, the researchers had a group of peptides that stuck to the receptor and not to any other protein.
Fruit flies genetically altered to produce such peptides lived longer, suggesting that the peptides were interfering with the receptor’s normal function.
Why these particular peptides work, and why the receptor they target plays such an important role in fruit fly aging, remain the bigger and as yet unanswered questions.
Carl Marziali | EurekAlert!
'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine