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PLoS Genet. 2012 Jan;8(1):e1002473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002473. Epub 2012 Jan 26.

Heterochromatin formation promotes longevity and represses ribosomal RNA synthesis.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Genetics, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA.

Abstract

Organismal aging is influenced by a multitude of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, and heterochromatin loss has been proposed to be one of the causes of aging. However, the role of heterochromatin in animal aging has been controversial. Here we show that heterochromatin formation prolongs lifespan and controls ribosomal RNA synthesis in Drosophila. Animals with decreased heterochromatin levels exhibit a dramatic shortening of lifespan, whereas increasing heterochromatin prolongs lifespan. The changes in lifespan are associated with changes in muscle integrity. Furthermore, we show that heterochromatin levels decrease with normal aging and that heterochromatin formation is essential for silencing rRNA transcription. Loss of epigenetic silencing and loss of stability of the rDNA locus have previously been implicated in aging of yeast. Taken together, these results suggest that epigenetic preservation of genome stability, especially at the rDNA locus, and repression of unnecessary rRNA synthesis, might be an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for prolonging lifespan.

PMID:
22291607
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3266895
Free PMC Article
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