11-Jun-2021 - Max-Planck-Institut für Biologie des Alterns

One for all: Convergent mechanism of ageing discovered

This may provide a new possibility to broadly improve human health during ageing

Several different causes of ageing have been discovered, but the question remains whether there are common underlying mechanisms that determine ageing and lifespan. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing and the CECAD Cluster of Excellence in Ageing research at the University Cologne have now come across folate metabolism in their search for such basic mechanisms. Its regulation underlies many known ageing signalling pathways and leads to longevity.  This may provide a new possibility to broadly improve human health during ageing.

In recent decades, several cellular signalling pathways have been discovered that regulate the lifespan of an organism and are thus of enormous importance for ageing research. When researchers altered these signalling pathways, this extended the lifespan of diverse organisms.  However, the question arises whether these different signalling pathways converge on common metabolic pathways that are causal for longevity.

The search begins in the roundworm

The scientists started their search in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, a well-known model organism for ageing research. “We studied the metabolic products of several, long-lived worm lines. Our analyses revealed that, among other things, we observed clear changes in the metabolites and enzymes of the folate cycle in all worm lines. Since folate metabolism plays a major role in human health, we wanted to further pursue its role in longevity”, explains Dr. Andrea Annibal, lead author of the study.

A common mechanism for longevity

Folates are essential vitamins important for the synthesis of amino acids and nucleotides – the building blocks of our proteins and DNA. “We tuned down the activity of specific enzymes of folate metabolism in the worms. Excitingly, the result was an increase in lifespan of up to 30 percent”, says Annibal. “We also saw that in long-lived strains of mice, folate metabolism is similarly tuned down. Thus, the regulation of folate metabolism may underlie not only the various longevity signalling pathways in worms, but also in mammals.”

”We are very excited by these findings because they reveal the regulation of folate metabolism as a common shared mechanism that affects several different pathways of longevity and is conserved in evolution”, adds Prof. Dr. Adam Antebi, director at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing. “Thus, the precise manipulation of folate metabolism may provide a new possibility to broadly improve human health during ageing.” In future experiments, the group aims to find out the mechanism by which the folate metabolism affects longevity.

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • folate metabolism
More about MPI für Biologie des Alterns
More about Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  • News

    A well-known anti-ageing compound with a new target

    Our genetic material is stored in our cells in a specific way to make the meter-long DNA molecule fit into the tiny cell nucleus of each body cell. An international team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, the CECAD Cluster of Excellence in Ageing research at t ... more

    Nucleosome breathing from atomistic time snapshots

    Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht (The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster (Germany) used computer simulations to reveal in atomic detail how a short piece of DNA opens while it is tightly wrapped around the proteins that package o ... more

    Human-specific gene makes mice smarter

    During human evolution, the neocortex, the evolutionarily youngest part of the cerebral cortex, expanded dramatically and made the human brain larger. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden had shown in previous studies that in th ... more

  • Videos

    Epigenetics - packaging artists in the cell

    Methyl attachments to histone proteins determine the degree of packing of the DNA molecule. They thereby determine whether a gene can be read or not. In this way, environment can influence the traits of an organism over generations. more

    Biomaterials - patent solutions from nature

    Animals and plants can produce amazing materials such as spider webs, wood or bone using only a few raw materials available. How do they achieve this? And what can engineers learn from them? more

    Chaperones - folding helpers in the cell

    Nothing works without the correct form: For most proteins, there are millions of ways in which these molecules, composed of long chains of amino acids, can be folded - but only one way is the right one. Researchers in the department "Cellular Biochemistry" at the Max Planck Institute for Bi ... more

  • Research Institutes

    Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V.

    The research institutes of the Max Planck Society perform basic research in the interest of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. In particular, the Max Planck Society takes up new and innovative research areas that German universiti ... more