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

Natural compound reduces signs of aging in healthy mice

October 27, 2016

Much of human health hinges on how well the body manufactures and uses energy. For reasons that remain unclear, cells' ability to produce energy declines with age, prompting scientists to suspect that the steady loss of efficiency ...

A metabolic switch to turn off obesity

October 27, 2016

You've tried all the diets. No matter: you've still regained the weight you lost, even though you ate well and you exercised regularly! This may be due to a particular enzyme in the brain: the alpha/beta hydrolase domain-6 ...

Mitochondria control stem cell fate

October 27, 2016

What happens in intestinal epithelial cells during a chronic illness? Basic research conducted at the Chair of Nutrition and Immunology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) addressed this question by generating a new ...

Scientists develop 'world-first' 3-D mammary gland model

October 27, 2016

A team of researchers from Cardiff University and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has succeeded in creating a three-dimensional mammary gland model that will pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms ...


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.