One Plus One Cellular Modification Gives Five Times the Anti-aging Effect in Worms

Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory, in collaboration with scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and Nanjing University in China, have identified synergistic cellular pathways for longevity that amplify lifespan fivefold in C. elegans, a nematode worm used as a model in aging research.

These pathways are also in humans. If the lifespan effects of each pathway was additive then the combined effect would only be a 130% increase instead of 500%.

The increase in lifespan would be the equivalent of a human living for 400 or 500 years, according to one of the scientists.

The research draws on the discovery of two major pathways governing aging in C. elegans, which is a popular model in aging research because it shares many of its genes with humans and because its short lifespan of only three to four weeks allows scientists to quickly assess the effects of genetic and environmental interventions to extend healthy lifespan.

The discovery of the synergistic effect opens the door to even more effective anti-aging therapies.

The new research uses a double mutant in which the insulin signaling (IIS) and TOR pathways have been genetically altered. Because alteration of the IIS pathways yields a 100 percent increase in lifespan and alteration of the TOR pathway yields a 30 percent increase, the double mutant would be expected to live 130 percent longer. But instead, its lifespan was amplified by 500 percent.

This also suggests that the combination gene therapy and other combination life extension treatments could have far larger antiaging effects.

The elucidation of the cellular mechanisms controlling the synergistic response is the subject of a recent paper in the online journal Cell Reports entitled “Translational Regulation of Non-autonomous Mitochondrial Stress Response Promotes Longevity.”

The authors include Jarod A. Rollins, Ph.D., and Aric N. Rogers, Ph.D., of the MDI Biological Laboratory.

“The synergistic extension is really wild,” said Rollins, who is the lead author with Jianfeng Lan, Ph.D., of Nanjing University. “The effect isn’t one plus one equals two, it’s one plus one equals five. Our findings demonstrate that nothing in nature exists in a vacuum; in order to develop the most effective anti-aging treatments we have to look at longevity networks rather than individual pathways.”

The discovery of the synergistic interaction could lead to the use of combination therapies, each affecting a different pathway, to extend healthy human lifespan in the same way that combination therapies are used to treat cancer and HIV, Pankaj Kapahi, Ph.D., of the Buck Institute, has said. Kapahi is a corresponding author of the paper with Rogers and Di Chen, Ph.D., of Nanjing University.

Reduced mRNA translation delays aging, but the underlying mechanisms remain underexplored. Mutations in both DAF-2 (IGF-1 receptor) and RSKS-1 (ribosomal S6 kinase/S6K) cause synergistic lifespan extension in C. elegans. To understand the roles of translational regulation in this process, we performed polysomal profiling and identified translationally regulated ribosomal and cytochrome c (CYC-2.1) genes as key mediators of longevity. cyc-2.1 knockdown significantly extends lifespan by activating the intestinal mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt), mitochondrial fission, and AMP-activated kinase (AMPK). The germline serves as the key tissue for cyc-2.1 to regulate lifespan, and germline-specific cyc-2.1 knockdown non-autonomously activates intestinal UPRmt and AMPK. Furthermore, the RNA-binding protein GLD-1-mediated translational repression of cyc-2.1 in the germline is important for the non-autonomous activation of UPRmt and synergistic longevity of the daf-2 rsks-1 mutant. Altogether, these results illustrate a translationally regulated non-autonomous mitochondrial stress response mechanism in the modulation of lifespan by insulin-like signaling and S6K.

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