(PHILADELPHIA) Researchers in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Thomas Jefferson University have found that the level of a single protein in the tiny roundworm C. elegans determines how long it lives. Worms born without this protein, called arrestin, lived about one-third longer than normal, while worms that had triple the amount of arrestin lived one-third less.
The research also showed that arrestin interacts with several other proteins within cells to regulate longevity. The human version of one of these proteins is PTEN, a well-known tumor suppressor. The study, to be published in the online edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, was chosen by the journal as the "Paper of the Week" considered in the top one percent of published articles.
Because most proteins in worms have human counterparts, these findings may have relevance to human biology and the understanding of cancer development, said Jeffrey L. Benovic, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department.
"The links we have found in worms suggest the same kind of interactions occur in mammals although human biology is certainly more complicated. We have much work to do to sort out these pathways, but that is our goal," said Dr. Benovic.
Researchers use the roundworm as a model because it offers a simple system to study the function of genes and proteins that are relevant to human biology. The worm, for example, has one arrestin gene, whereas humans have four. Worms only have 302 neurons compared to the 100 billion or so in the human brain. In addition, their short lifespan of two to three weeks allows for timely observation of effects on longevity.
Dr. Benovic and the study's first author, Aimee Palmitessa, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow, studied signaling pathways activated by G protein-coupled receptors. These receptors bind to all kinds of hormones, sensory stimuli (such as light, odorants and tastants),
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Thomas Jefferson University