Navigation Links
Recruitment of reproductive features into other cell types may underlie extended lifespan in animals

In the sense that organisms existing today are connected through a chain of life through their parents, grandparents and other ancestors almost a billion years back to the first animals of the pre-Cambrian era, an animal's reproductive cells can be considered to be immortal. These germline cells generate their offspring's somatic cells other cells involved in all aspects of growth, metabolism and behavior, which have a set lifespan and new germline cells that continue on, generation after generation.

Now in a dramatic finding, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Molecular Biology have found that certain genetic mutations known to extend the lifespan of the C. elegans roundworm induce 'mortal' somatic cells to express some of the genes that allow the 'immortality' of reproductive germline cells. Their report will appear in the journal Nature and is receiving advance online release.

"C. elegans mutants with extreme longevity accomplish this feat, in part, by adopting genetic programs normally restricted to the germline into somatic cells," says Sean Curran, PhD, of MGH Molecular Biology, the study's lead author. "We know that germline cells are more stable than somatic cells they live longer and are more resistant to stresses that damage other cells and understanding the molecular pathways involved in that stability may someday allow us to devise therapies protective against age-related decline in other tissues."

Curran is a research fellow in the laboratory of MGH investigator Gary Ruvkun, PhD, whose work focuses on the development, longevity and metabolism of C. elegans, a tiny worm broadly used as a model for studying basic biological systems. Ruvkun and other researchers discovered that simple mutations in genetic pathways conserved throughout evolution can double or triple the lifespan of C. elegans, and that similar mutations in the corresponding pathways also dramatically extend mammalian lifespan.

Longevity-associated mutations have been shown to lead to enhanced immune response including increased control of gene expression through RNA interference (RNAi) in somatic cells. Since it is known that RNAi is among the mechanisms underlying germline cells' enhanced resistance to pathogens and other stresses, the researchers examined whether the reactivation of germline genetic programs was involved in the extended lifespan of C. elegans mutants.

A series of experiments demonstrated that worms with increased longevity induced by mutations in the insulin-like signaling pathway did exhibit somatic cell expression of genes usually active only in germline cells. The mutant worms also were protected from stresses that damaged the DNA of non-mutant worms. The researchers also found that inactivating germline-expressed genes in the mutant worms eliminated the increased lifespan and that longevity-associated mutations in two genes from a different metabolic pathway one involved with detoxification and stress response also increased the expression of germline markers.

"The idea that somatic cells can reacquire genetic pathways usually restricted to germline cells is fascinating, and since germline protection is seen across species, the activity of these genes may play a role in controlling mammalian lifespan," says Ruvkun, senior author of the Nature paper. "Understanding the mechanisms involved in this transformation could help us develop new ways to repair and even regenerate key cells and tissues." A professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Ruvkun was a co-recipient of the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for his role in discovering that tiny molecules of RNA can control the activity of critical genes


Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

Related biology news :

1. Study finds Viagra increases release of key reproductive hormone
2. Study identifies pathway required for normal reproductive development
3. Physician-scientists seek solutions to reproductive problems related to chromosomal variations
4. Reproductive plasticity revealed: Neotropical treefrog can choose to lay eggs in water or on land
5. W.M. Keck Foundation grant funds reproductive science research
6. New study shows compounds from soy affect brain and reproductive development
7. Trends in prescription medication sharing among reproductive-aged women
8. Rutgers scholar authors definitive biography of reproductive medicine pioneer
9. Exposing chicks to maternal stress leads to long-term reproductive success
10. In many fungi, reproductive spores are remarkably aerodynamic
11. Reproductive life of male mice is increased by living with females
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... , November 17, 2015 Paris ... 2015.   --> Paris from 17 ... DERMALOG, the biometrics innovation leader, has invented the first ... fingerprints on the same scanning surface. Until now two different ... Now one scanner can capture both on the same ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today ... its Board of Directors. --> ... recently retiring from the partnership at TPG Capital, one ... with over $140 Billion in revenue.  He founded and ... all the TPG companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In ...
(Date:11/16/2015)... 16, 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ... today announced expansion of its TDDI product portfolio ... controller and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions designed ... new TDDI products add to the previously-announced ... (WQHD resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. All ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/1/2015)... -- Cepheid (Nasdaq: CPHD ) today announced that, ... Healthcare Conference in New York City ... outlook for the fourth quarter of 2015 and initiating ... term business model expectations. John Bishop , ... be the fastest growing company of the major market ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... Global ... practitioners and aesthetics professionals from Central America and abroad for the first Iberoamerican ... City, Panama Feb. 17-19, 2016. Testart will present and discuss new trends in ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... (NYSE: BIOA ), a leader in renewable materials, today ... Climate Pledge, alongside more than 140 companies from across the ... demonstrate an ongoing commitment to climate action and to voice ... Paris climate negotiations. Sarnia, Canada ... --> BioAmber uses biotechnology to convert renewable sugars ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Nov. 30, 2015 Spherix Incorporated (Nasdaq: ... to the fostering and monetization of intellectual property, ... prospective initiatives designed to create shareholder value. ... of Spherix. "Based on published reports, the total ... $50 billion and Spherix will seek to secure ...
Breaking Biology Technology: