Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne have now come one step closer to answer the question what these mysterious circRNAs do: one of them contributes to the ageing process in fruit flies.
Ribonucleic acid, or RNA, is part of our genetic code and present in every cell of our body. The best known form of RNA is a single linear strand, of which the function is well known and characterized.
But there is also another type of RNA, so-called “circular RNA”, or circRNA, which forms a continuous loop that makes it more stable and less vulnerable to degradation. CircRNAs accumulate in the brain with age; still, the biological functions of most circRNAs are not known and are a riddle for the scientific community.
Now scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing have come one step closer to answer the question what these mysterious circRNAs do: one of them contributes to the ageing process in fruit flies.
Carina Weigelt and other researchers in the group led by Linda Partridge, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, used fruit flies to investigate the role of the circRNAs in the ageing process. The results were published in the scientific journal Molecular Cell.
“This is unique, because it is not very well understood what circRNAs do, especially not in an ageing perspective. Nobody has looked at circRNAs in a longevity context before”, says Carina Weigelt who conducted the main part of the study.
She continues: “Now we have identified a circRNA that can extend lifespan of fruit flies when we increase it, and it is regulated by insulin signaling”.
A specific circRNA influences lifespan via insulin signalling
The insulin pathway regulates ageing, metabolism, reproduction and growth in worms, flies and humans. When this pathway is blocked by different methods, for instance by using genetically modified flies that lack insulin, the flies live longer. But it is not known how exactly this happens.
The scientists now believe that part of the answer could lie with the circRNAs. They found a specific circRNA, called circSulfateless (circSfl), that behaved differently compared to other circRNAs. CircSfl was expressed at much higher levels in the long-lived fruit flies that lacked insulin as compared to normal flies.
Furthermore, when flies were genetically manipulated to have higher level of circSfl, these flies also lived longer. These findings show that not only is circSfl dependent on insulin – circSfl itself can also directly influence the lifespan of fruit flies.
In the cells the necessary proteins that the body needs for all sorts of functions are made from normal linear RNAs, but generally not from circular RNAs. Again, the scientists found another difference between circSfl and other circular RNAs: a protein is indeed made from circSfl.
The exact function of this protein is not known, but Carina Weigelt says: “ The circSfl protein is similar but not identical to the classical Sfl protein originating from the linear Sfl RNA. We don’t know exactly how the circSfl-derived protein influences ageing, but perhaps it interacts with similar proteins as the regular Sfl protein.”
What does this mean for ageing research? Carina Weigelt says: “We want to understand how ageing works and why the flies lacking insulin are long-lived. It seems like one of the mechanisms is circSfl. We now want to further investigate the ageing process by looking at other circular RNAs also in other animals.” Because circular RNAs also accumulate in the mammalian brain, these findings most likely also have important implications for humans.
Corresponding authors: Linda Partridge, Sebastian Grönke
Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne
Tel.: +49 (0)221 379 70 600, 610
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
MPI Press & Public Relations: Gabriella Lundkvist
Tel.: +49 (0)221 379 70 302
An insulin-sensitive circular RNA that regulates lifespan in Drosophila. Weigelt CM, Sehgal R, Tain LS, Cheng J, Eßer J, Pahl A, Dieterich C, Grönke S and Partridge L. Mol Cell 2020.
Dr. Gabriella Lundkvist | Max-Planck-Institut für Biologie des Alterns
Enzymes as double agents: new mechanism discovered in protein modification
07.07.2020 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Protein linked to cancer acts as a viscous glue in cell division
07.07.2020 | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class
In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...
Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.
Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....
Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...
A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...
Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...
07.07.2020 | Event News
02.07.2020 | Event News
19.05.2020 | Event News
07.07.2020 | Life Sciences
07.07.2020 | Life Sciences
07.07.2020 | Life Sciences