Protein identified that can lengthen our life?

February 27, 2012

Cells use various methods to break down and recycle worn-out components—autophagy is one of them. In the dissertation she will be defending at Umea University in Sweden, Karin Håberg shows that the protein SNX18 is necessary for cells to be able to perform autophagy.

In animal experiments on both simple organisms like fruit flies and in more complex animals like mice, researchers have seen that stimulating leads to increased longevity. It is still unclear whether these results are directly translatable to humans. However, there are theories that calorie restriction, which is a relatively well-established way of increasing longevity, induces higher levels of autophagy, which would help delay aging.

Cells metabolize their old proteins and cell organelles by breaking them down in a process called autophagy. The term comes from Greek and means roughly to eat oneself. Autophagy is important in cleaning out defective components that otherwise can damage cells and cause diseases.

Molecules that are to be broken down are enclosed in a membrane sack that forms an organelle called an autophagosome. This then merges with a lysosome, a cell organelle containing many different enzymes that are specialized in breaking down biomolecules. The metabolic products can then be recycled by the cells to form new molecules.

Karin Håberg’s studies show that SNX18 binds to and can reshape cell membranes. Her studies of the role played by SNX18 in autophagy showed that when the cells’ production of SNX18 was stopped by RNA interference, the number of autophagosomes declined drastically, thereby inhibiting the autophagy process.

When the cells were manipulated instead to overproduce SNX18, the number of autophagosomes increased. Karin Håberg was also able to demonstrate that it is precisely the capacity to re-model membranes that is the key to SNX18’s function in the formation of autophagosomes. The studies of autophagy were conducted in collaboration with a research team at Oslo University led by Dr. Anne Simonsen.

Explore further: Shedding light on cell mechanism which plays a role in such diseases as Huntington's and Parkinson's

Related Stories

Recommended for you

We've all got a blind spot, but it can be shrunk

August 31, 2015

You've probably never noticed, but the human eye includes an unavoidable blind spot. That's because the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain must pass through the retina, which creates a hole in that light-sensitive ...

Biologists identify mechanisms of embryonic wound repair

August 31, 2015

It's like something out of a science-fiction movie - time-lapse photography showing how wounds in embryos of fruit flies heal themselves. The images are not only real; they shed light on ways to improve wound recovery in ...

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.