My watch list
my.bionity.com  
Login  

A Protein that Extends Life of Yeast Cells

08-Sep-2017

University of Basel/SNI/Nano Imaging Lab

Baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

To understand and control aging is the aspiration of many scientists. Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have now discovered that the protein Gcn4 decreases protein synthesis and extends the life of yeast cells. Understanding how individual genes affect lifespan opens new ways to control the aging process and the occurrence of aging-related diseases.

For about one hundred years it has been known that nutrient restriction and moderate stress can significantly prolong life. The researchers led by Prof. Mihaela Zavolan and Prof. Anne Spang, both at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, have discovered how the transcription factor Gcn4, a protein that regulates the expression of many genes, extends the life of baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In various stress situations, the cells stimulate Gcn4 production which leads to reduced biosynthesis of new proteins and increased yeast lifespan.

Transcription factor represses protein synthesis

It has long been known that protein synthesis – also known as translation – plays an important role in aging. Inhibition of protein synthesis, caused for example by reduced nutrient intake, can have a positive effect on the life expectancy of diverse organisms such as yeast, flies, worms or fish. Reducing the ribosomes, the protein factories of the cell, can also considerably extend the lifespan of yeast cells.

What these cellular stresses have in common is that they activate the production of Gcn4. However, how this protein promotes longevity has remained unclear.

In their study, the team working with Zavolan exposed yeast cells to different stress conditions, measured their lifespan, protein synthesis rates and Gcn4 expression. “We observed that the level of the Gcn4 protein was positively correlated with the longevity of yeast cells,” says Mihaela Zavolan, Professor of Computational and Systems Biology.

“However, we wanted to understand why. We have now shown for the first time that it is the transcriptional suppression of genes that are important for cellular protein synthesis by Gcn4 that seems to account for its lifespan extension effect. As the translation machinery is limiting, the energy-intensive production of new proteins is overall dampened.” From the yeast cell’s point of view, this is an advantage: This enables them to live about 40 percent longer than usual.

Transcription factor is highly conserved in many organisms

The transcription factor Gcn4 is conserved in over 50 different organisms, including mammals, and it likely play a significant role in the aging of these organisms as well.

Zavolan’s group will now investigate whether the mammalian homolog similarly slows aging and extends lifespan by regulating protein synthesis genes in response to nutrients and stress.

Facts, background information, dossiers
More about Universität Basel
  • News

    Nanocapsules Enable Cell-Inspired Metabolic Reactions

    Researchers at the University of Basel succeeded in developing capsules capable of producing the bio-molecule glucose-6-phosphate that plays an important role in metabolic processes. The researchers were able to produce the metabolite in conditions very similar to the biochemical reaction i ... more

    Like a Revolving Door: How Shuttling Proteins Operate Nuclear Pores

    Nuclear pore complexes are tiny channels where the exchange of substances between the cell nucleus and the cytoplasm takes place. Scientists at the University of Basel report on startling new research that might overturn established models of nuclear transport regulation. Their study publis ... more

    Obese People Lack Cells with Satiety Hormones

    Individuals with severe overweight have an inhibited sense of satiation - they release fewer satiety hormones than people of normal weight. The reason: the responsible cells in the gastrointestinal tract of obese people are severely reduced. Surgical weight-loss procedures can repair this d ... more

  • Videos

    Virtual Reality in Medicine: New Opportunities for Diagnostics and Surgical Planning

    Before an operation, surgeons have to obtain the most precise image possible of the anatomical structures of the part of the body undergoing surgery. University of Basel researchers have now developed a technology that uses computed tomography data to generate a three-dimensional image in r ... more

    Nuclear Pores Captured on Film

    Zooming into a nuclear pore complex using a high-speed atomic force microscope reveals the selectivity barrier that filters the traffic of molecules passing between the cytoplasm and nucleus in eukaryotic cells. This is comprised of intrinsically disordered proteins known as FG Nucleoporins ... more

  • Universities

    Universität Basel

    Tradition - The city of Basel is home to the oldest university in Switzerland. Founded upon the initiative of local citizens in 1460, the University of Basel is a modern and attractive centre of teaching, learning, and research situated in the heart of the historic old town. Self - managed ... more

Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE