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NIH researchers find new clues about aging
Date:6/13/2011

clues about more general biochemical and molecular mechanisms."

Collins led the earlier discovery of the gene mutation responsible for progeria and subsequent advances at NIH in understanding the biochemical and molecular underpinnings of the disease.

In a 2007 study, NIH researchers showed that normal cells of healthy people can produce a small amount of progerin, the toxic protein, even when they do not carry the mutation. The more cell divisions the cell underwent, the shorter the telomeres and the greater the production of progerin. But a mystery remained: What was triggering the production of the toxic progerin protein?

The current study shows that the mutation that causes progeria strongly activates the splicing of lamin A to produce the toxic progerin protein, leading to all of the features of premature aging suffered by children with this disease. But modifications in the splicing of LMNA are also at play in the presence of the normal gene.

The research suggests that the shortening of telomeres during normal cell division in individuals with normal LMNA genes somehow alters the way a normal cell processes genetic information when turning it into a protein, a process called RNA splicing. To build proteins, RNA is transcribed from genetic instructions embedded in DNA. RNA does not carry all of the linear information embedded in the ribbon of DNA; rather, the cell splices together segments of genetic information called exons that contain the code for building proteins, and removes the intervening letters of unused genetic information called introns. This mechanism appears to be altered by telomere shortening, and affects protein production for multiple proteins that are important for cytoskeleton integrity. Most importantly, this alteration in RNA splicing affects the processing of the LMNA messenger RNA, leading to an accumulation of the toxic progerin protein.

Cells age as part of the normal cell cycle process c
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Contact: Raymond MacDougall
macdougallr@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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