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Study Links Sugar Production in Yeast Cells to Longevity

Conservation of glucose for survival may apply to humans as well, researchers say

FRIDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- The process by which yeast cells produce glucose may affect how long the cells -- and perhaps humans -- live, a new study has found.

The researchers found that the chemical process of acetylation, which is key to glucose production, influences yeast cell life and that this process depends on NuA4, an enzyme complex that plays a role in DNA repair.

Acetylation occurs when an acetyl group -- a molecule that is made of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen atoms -- bonds to another compound.

Genetically mutated yeast cells in which the acetylation process was always occurring lived up to 20 percent longer than normal yeast cells, the researchers found. Cells in which the acetylation process was shut off had their life span slashed by 80 percent, the study discovered.

The team, led by researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found the tie to NuA4 in a meticulous process that studied thousands of yeast proteins to see which had an acetyl group stuck to them after NuA4 was added. During their work, the researchers also found that acetylation affects the enzyme Pck1p, another vital cog in how sugar is produced in yeast and, possibly, in human cells as well.

Pck1p, in turn, is also under the direction of Sir2, another enzyme that removes the acetyl group and which other studies have strongly link to the aging process and several diseases in mammals.

"Because the NuA4 complex is highly conserved among species, what we've found in yeast translates to humans as well," researcher Heng Zhu, a Johns Hopkins assistant professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, said in a Hopkins news release. "What we've revealed about longevity in yeast perhaps someday can translate to human health."

The findings were published in the March 20 issue of Cell.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about healthy aging.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, March 23, 2009

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