WISDOM OF AGES
A relative of a yeast gene that controls lifespan also controls longevity in an animal — the tiny nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, Heidi Tissenbaum and Leonard Guarente of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveal in this week’s Nature (Vol. 410, No. 6825, 08 Mar 2001). Indeed overexpression of sir-2.1, the C. elegans counterpart to yeast’s SIR2 gene, increases the mean lifespan in worms by up to 50%.
Tissenbaum and Guarente’s findings suggest that Sir2 proteins may couple longevity to nutrient availability in many eukaryotic organisms. The results also vindicate the use of yeast (where ageing has been equated with the number of times a mother cell can bud) as a model for the study of the genetics of lifespan in higher animals. "After more than a decade of guessing that studies of S. cerevisiae [yeast] might teach us about general mechanisms of ageing, the gamble has paid off," comments David Gems of University College London, UK, in an accompanying News and Views article.
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