Issue Date: February 23, 2009
Protein Folding May Be Key To A Long Life
A principal cause of aging has long been thought by scientists to be oxidative stress—the cumulative damaging effects of oxidative processes on cellular molecules. But protein folding may be even more important, according to a study led by Rochelle Buffenstein and Asish Chaudhuri of the University of Texas Health Science Center, in San Antonio (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0809620106). The researchers compared oxidative stress and protein stability in mice, which live only three to four years, with that of naked mole rats, which can live more than 28 years. They found that proteins in young mice and young mole rats have about the same number of oxidized cysteines, amino acids that are particularly susceptible to oxidative damage. But this damage does not accumulate with age in mole rats, and mole rat proteins tend to remain properly folded and functioning much longer than those of mice, the researchers say. This suggests that protein stability and integrity play key roles in longevity. The finding that one can correlate life span with biochemical data of this type "is both credible and exciting," comments protein-folding expert Chris Dobson of the University of Cambridge.
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