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Cell. 1995 Feb 10;80(3):485-96.

Mutation in the silencing gene SIR4 can delay aging in S. cerevisiae.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


Aging in S. cerevisiae is exemplified by the fixed number of cell divisions that mother cells undergo (termed their life span). We have exploited a correlation between life span and stress resistance to identify mutations in four genes that extend life span. One of these, SIR4, encodes a component of the silencing apparatus at HM loci and telomeres. The sir4-42 mutation extends life span by more than 30% and is semidominant. Our findings suggest that sir4-42 extends life span by preventing recruitment of the SIR proteins to HM loci and telomeres, thereby increasing their concentration at other chromosomal regions. Maintaining silencing at these other regions may be critical in preventing aging. Consistent with this view, expression of only the carboxyl terminus of SIR4 interferes with silencing at HM loci and telomeres, which also extends life span. Possible links among silencing, telomere maintenance, and aging in other organisms are discussed.

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