Collaborations between Johns Hopkins and National Taiwan University researchers have successfully manipulated the life span of common, single-celled yeast organisms by figuring out how to remove and restore protein functions related to yeast aging.
A chemical variation of a “fuel-gauge” enzyme that senses energy in yeast acts like a life span clock: It is present in young organisms and progressively diminished as yeast cells age. In the case of yeast, the discovery reveals molecular components of an aging pathway that appears related to one that regulates longevity and lifespan in humans.
The chemical variation, known as acetylation because it adds an acetyl group to an existing molecule, is a kind of “decoration” that goes on and off a protein — in this case, the protein Sip2 — much like an ornament can be put on and taken off a Christmas tree.
“We performed anti-aging therapy on yeast,” says the study’s first author, Jin-Ying Lu, M.D., Ph.D., of National Taiwan University. “When we give back this protein acetylation, we rescued the life span shortening in old cells. Our next task is to prove that this phenomenon also happens in mammalian cells.”