Monday, December 01, 2008

Cell Paper on Aging

The latest issue of Cell has this interesting study on gene expression during aging. Here is the abstract:

Genomic instability and alterations in gene expression are hallmarks of eukaryotic aging. The yeast histone deacetylase Sir2 silences transcription and stabilizes repetitive DNA, but during aging or in response to a DNA break, the Sir complex relocalizes to sites of genomic instability, resulting in the desilencing of genes that cause sterility, a characteristic of yeast aging. Using embryonic stem cells, we show that mammalian Sir2, SIRT1, represses repetitive DNA and a functionally diverse set of genes across the mouse genome. In response to DNA damage, SIRT1 dissociates from these loci and relocalizes to DNA breaks to promote repair, resulting in transcriptional changes that parallel those in the aging mouse brain. Increased SIRT1 expression promotes survival in a mouse model of genomic instability and suppresses age-dependent transcriptional changes. Thus, DNA damage-induced redistribution of SIRT1 and other chromatin-modifying proteins may be a conserved mechanism of aging in eukaryotes.

And the Boston Globe has the scoop here. A sample:

Aging may be a case of neglect -- an absentee landlord at the cellular level that allows gene activity to go awry, according to a study published today.

Scientists have long known that aging causes gene expression to change, and DNA damage to accumulate. But now, research led by Harvard Medical School scientists explains the connection between the two processes in mammals.

The paper, published in the journal Cell, found that a multi-tasking protein called SIRT1 that normally acts as guardian of the genome gets dragged away to DNA fix-it jobs. When the protein abandons its normal post to work as a genetic handyman, order unravels elsewhere in the cell. Genes that are normally under its careful watch begin to flip on.