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Aging (Albany NY). 2013 Nov;5(11):813-24.

Dietary and genetic effects on age-related loss of gene silencing reveal epigenetic plasticity of chromatin repression during aging.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


During aging, changes in chromatin state that alter gene transcription have been postulated to result in expression of genes that are normally silenced, leading to deleterious age-related effects on cellular physiology. Despite the prevalence of this hypothesis, it is primarily in yeast that loss of gene silencing with age has been well documented. We use a novel position effect variegation (PEV) reporter in Drosophila melanogaster to show that age-related loss of repressive heterochromatin is associated with loss of gene silencing in metazoans and is affected by Sir2, as it is in yeast. The life span-extending intervention, calorie restriction (CR), delays the age-related loss of gene silencing, indicating that loss of gene silencing is a component of normal aging. Diet switch experiments show that such flies undergo a rapid change in their level of gene silencing, demonstrating the epigenetic plasticity of chromatin during aging and highlighting the potential role of diet and metabolism in chromatin maintenance, Thus, diet and related interventions may be of therapeutic importance for age-related diseases, such as cancer.

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