A genetic change for a long and healthy life? – ScienceDaily
Living a long and healthy life is everyone’s wish, but it is not easy to achieve. Many studies on aging develop strategies to increase the lifespan, the period of life spent in good health, without chronic diseases or disabilities. KAIST researchers presented new ideas for improving lifespan by simply regulating the activity of a protein.
A research group led by Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee of the Department of Biological Sciences has identified a single amino acid change in the homolog of the tumor suppressor protein phosphatase and tensin (PTEN) that dramatically prolongs healthy periods while maintaining longevity. This study highlights the importance of the well-conserved tumor suppressor protein PTEN in regulating health, which can be targeted to develop therapies to promote healthy longevity in humans. The research was published in Nature Communication September 24, 2021.
Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) (IIS) signaling is one of the evolutionarily conserved modulating pathways of aging present in life forms ranging from from tiny roundworms to humans. Appropriate reduction in IIS leads to longevity in animals, but often causes defects in multiple health parameters, including impaired motility, reproduction, and growth.
The research team found that a specific amino acid change in the PTEN protein improves health status while maintaining the longevity conferred by reduced IIS. They used the C. elegans roundworm, an excellent model animal that has been widely used in aging research, mainly because of its very short normal lifespan of around two to three weeks. PTEN protein is a phosphatase which removes phosphate from lipids as well as proteins. Interestingly, the newly identified amino acid change gently recalibrated IIS by partially maintaining protein phosphatase activity while reducing lipid phosphatase activity.
As a result, the amino acid change in the PTEN protein maintained the activity of the Forkhead Box O (FOXO) longevity-promoting transcription factor protein while limiting the detrimental upregulation of another transcription factor. , NRF2, leading to a long and healthy life in animals with reduced IIS.
Professor Lee said, “Our study raises the exciting possibility of simultaneously promoting longevity and health in humans by slightly altering the activity of a protein, PTEN.” This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea.
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