Physiological homeostasis becomes compromised during ageing, as a result of impairment of cellular processes, including transcription and RNA splicing. However, the molecular mechanisms leading to the loss of transcriptional fidelity are so far elusive, as are ways of preventing it. Beyer’s and Papantonis’ team profiled and analysed genome-wide, ageing-related changes in transcriptional processes across different organisms: nematodes, fruitflies, mice, rats and humans. The average transcriptional elongation speed (RNA polymerase II speed) increased with age in all five species. Along with these changes in elongation speed, they observed changes in splicing, including a reduction of unspliced transcripts and the formation of more circular RNAs. Two lifespan-extending interventions, dietary restriction and lowered insulin–IGF signalling, both reversed most of these ageing-related changes. Genetic variants in RNA polymerase II that reduced its speed in worms and flies increased their lifespan. Similarly, reducing the speed of RNA polymerase II by overexpressing histone components, to counter age-associated changes in nucleosome positioning, also extended lifespan in flies and the division potential of human cells. Their findings uncover fundamental molecular mechanisms underlying animal ageing and lifespan-extending interventions, and point to possible preventive measures.
Professor for Systems Biology at the Cologne Excellence Cluster on Cellular Stress Responses in Age-Associated Diseases (CECAD)
Chair of Translational Epigenetics at the University Medical Center Goettingen, GermanyNo slides available
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