Better quality control turns mushrooms into Methuselahs

Study: Gained lifetime is not bought by limiting the quality of life

Mitochondria of a human lung cell © Public domain
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Improved quality control in the mitochondria increases life expectancy by 67 percent - at least for mushrooms. This has now been demonstrated by a new study by Frankfurt researchers, which they report on in the journal "Nature Cell Biology".

In the study of aging processes in the cell, mitochondria play a special role. In them cell respiration takes place, which supplies the organism with energy. It also releases reactive oxygen species (ROS); and they damage a variety of components such as proteins and DNA. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle, as the number of defects increases the undesirable production of ROS.

Reliable quality control needed

Here, reliable quality control is needed to detect and degrade damaged components of the respiratory chain before they cause further damage. A protein that performs this function has now been identified by a research team from the University of Frankfurt am Main.

In a genetically modified strain of the fungus Podospora anserina, the scientists observed that the amount of a protein, the so-called LON protease, is greatly increased in the mitochondria. As a result, the new mushroom variety shows a life span that is 67 percent longer than the reference strain.

No limitation of the quality of life

As Professor Heinz D. Osiewacz and his colleague Karin Luce also found out, the "gained" time is not bought by limiting the quality of life. Other life-prolonging measures, such as reduced food intake, have been observed in laboratory mice to grow more slowly and have fewer offspring. In contrast, the genetically modified fungal strain is characterized by improved energy expenditure and increased tolerance to environmental stress. display

The LON protease is conserved as a component of mitochondrial protein quality control from bacteria to mammals through evolution. The study therefore suggests that improvement of mitochondrial protein quality control in mammals is also an important strategy for reducing age-related damage.

(idw - University of Frankfurt am Main, 23.06.2009 - DLO)