Deciphering the neural code that links food to aging

Credit: Maliz Ong

Diet exerts a major impact on health and ageing. The nervous system plays an important role in this process but, thus far, how food signals are interpreted by the nervous system has been a mystery. This is an important question because the perception of food by the nervous system impacts not just ageing, but also other processes associated with health and disease, including metabolism, reproduction, and development.

A new study published in eLife by researchers from the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology (MRC CDN) at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's College London, in collaboration with engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (USA), has found that serotonin and TGF-beta hormone levels in specific neurons of C. elegans communicate information about food abundance in roundworms. These signals from the nervous system influence the animal's lifespan, thus mediating the effects of food on ageing.

This work resulting from an interdisciplinary collaboration, not only reveals the links from food to lifespan, it also sheds further light on how the nervous system processes information. In particular, an unexpectedly intricate regulation in this neural gene circuit that also alters the accuracy of its gene expression signals has been discovered. Thus, gene expression can also serve as an additional layer of computation in the nervous system. This work reveals how food signals are processed, and how the accuracy of its corresponding neural code is regulated.

"By having biologists work closely with engineers, we could bring to bear a combination of biology, automation, and computation on the issue of neural coding that's fundamental to neuroscience. It's the first time neural gene expression has been analysed with this level of detail in a multicellular animal, which was critical in calculating the accuracy of this neural gene expression code and how it was affected by different genes." said Dr. QueeLim Ch'ng, senior co-author of the study, from the IoPPN at King's College London. "Most people think about electrical activity when they think about encoding information in the nervous system. Our work shows that gene expression is an important, but virtually unexplored aspect of information processing in the nervous system."

Both serotonin and TGF-beta pathways have been implicated in diverse human diseases, including cancer, mental disorders, diabetes, and obesity. The powerful genetic tools in the simple roundworm have already revealed many genetic pathways that underlie human physiology and disease, because many important genes function similarly in roundworms and humans.

"Our research will continue to illuminate the pathways and mechanisms that link diet to and disease, while simultaneously uncovering general principles of information processing, which will be crucial for tackling complex gene-environment interactions that underlie many diseases."

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Journal information: eLife

Citation: Deciphering the neural code that links food to aging (2015, May 12) retrieved 24 October 2019 from
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May 12, 2015
The sensory neurons respond to bacterial food and link starvation to genes that modulate lifespan and the physiology of reproduction.

Journal article excerpt:" "tph-1 is expressed in the NSM foregut neurons, the ADF sensory neurons, and the HSN motorneurons involved in egg-laying..."

Mutations effect food-modulated locomotion

Journal article excerpt: "In the food-responsive ADF neurons (Zaslaver et al., 2015), tph-1 expression is responsive to pathogenic bacteria and starvation, to respectively mediate aversive olfactory plasticity and stress responses..."

Nutrient stress and social stress linked to starvation lead to ecological adaptations or extinction of species, not evolution.

See Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model http://www.ncbi.n...3960065/

"Species incompatibilities in nematodes are associated with cysteine-to-alanine substitutions (Wilson et al., 2011), which may alter... pheromone production."

May 12, 2015
@ JVK-Skippy. Here you are posting the gobbledygook like everywhere else. Why you can't just be a one place at a time crankpot? Maybe you hoping you might sneak one through by the science idiots who try to tell you about the evolutions.

Oh yeah, I almost forget. And this don't have nothing to do with stinky love potions either. One day the FBI is going to put you in the jail if you keep trying to peddle them.

May 12, 2015
The link from species incompatibilities via RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions is also the key to pheromone-controlled biodiversity.

"...recent mechanistic advances in P. pacificus demonstrate the promise of functional genetic studies to test the causality of rapidly selected genes directly. Further work might also reveal that additional underlying causes, such as previously unseen ecological opportunities or selective pressures, may have jointly led to both complexity and plasticity."

The article offers additional support for my model and its extension to all RNA-mediated cell types in an invited review of nutritional epigenetics linked from ecological variation to ecological adaptations.

Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations: from atoms to ecosystems.

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