How does dietary restriction extend lifespan in flies?

April 17, 2018, University College London
Drosophila fly. Credit: Katja Schulz

Lifespan in flies is extended by limiting the activity of a group of proteins called GATA transcription factors (TFs), giving clues to how a moderate reduction in food intake protects against multiple ageing-related diseases, according to a new UCL-led study.

The beneficial effect of reducing the action of a GATA TF is comparable to the prolonged achieved through ; which is defined as a reduction of particular or total nutrient intake without causing malnutrition. This intervention has previously been shown to extend the lifespans of mice and many other animals.

GATA TFs play important roles in health across animals including humans, and the study also associates these proteins with lifespan-extending dietary alterations in mice.

"Across animals, moderately restricting total calorie intake extends lifespan, and anecdotally some humans who do the same stay youthful longer. Scientists have been looking to identify the molecular biological mechanisms behind why this is the case since 1935," explained first author, Dr Adam Dobson, UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing.

The study, published in NPJ Aging and Mechanisms of Disease today in collaboration with the Berlin Institute of Health and Monash University, investigated how limiting GATA TFs extends the lifespans of flies and which tissues are important for this longevity effect.

The authors found that limiting the action of a GATA TF called serpent specifically in fly gut and fat tissue gave a lifespan benefit just like dietary restriction, but without the negative side effects to fitness and fertility. 

"Our study reveals that a developmentally important gene regulator plays a role in diet extending lifespan," explained co-author Dr Matthew Piper, from the Monash School of Biological Sciences and previously of UCL.

The researchers used fruit flies as their model organism and restricted the amount of protein – in the form of amino acids – in the flies' diet to extend life. 

They then measured how this affected transcription – the essential process by which information from genes in DNA is used to make proteins – in the brain, gut, fat, muscle and ovaries in female flies.

This identified GATA TFs likely controllers of gene expression across the different tissues, which are a family of proteins known to be important for growth and development in mice and humans. 

"When we reduced the activity of this transcription factor in adult flies, we reproduced the extension to lifespan seen when we reduced protein by up to 10%" added Dr Dobson.

"Our study suggests that this transcription factor family plays a role in how lifespan changes when dietary is reduced. Because this same gene is also found in mice and humans we think this may be a fundamentally important new insight into the way ageing is controlled in response to diet," Dr Piper concluded.

The team now plan on looking at what GATA TFs do at a molecular level, and whether these effects do indeed mimic the molecular effects of dietary restriction.

Explore further: High-sugar diet programs a short lifespan in flies

More information: Adam J. Dobson et al. Tissue-specific transcriptome profiling of Drosophila reveals roles for GATA transcription factors in longevity by dietary restriction, npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41514-018-0024-4

Related Stories

High-sugar diet programs a short lifespan in flies

January 10, 2017
Flies with a history of eating a high sugar diet live shorter lives, even after their diet improves. This is because the unhealthy diet drives long-term reprogramming of gene expression, according to a UCL-led team of researchers.

Sulfur amino acid restriction could amount to new dietary approach to health

March 29, 2018
The longevity and health improvements seen in animals on sulfur amino acid-restricted diets could translate to people, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers who recently conducted a review of published studies. ...

Cutting calories might help you live longer, but not without increased physical activity

July 3, 2012
Dietary restriction can slow age-related diseases and extend the lifespan of all species tested to date. Understanding this phenomenon might help people live longer, preferably without having to drastically limit calories. ...

Recommended for you

Defect in debilitating neurodegenerative disease reversed in mouse nerves

April 19, 2018
Scientists have developed a new drug compound that shows promise as a future treatment for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, an inherited, often painful neurodegenerative condition that affects nerves in the hands, arms, feet ...

Molecule that dilates blood vessels hints at new way to treat heart disease

April 19, 2018
Americans die of heart or cardiovascular disease at an alarming rate. In fact, heart attacks, strokes and related diseases will kill an estimated 610,000 Americans this year alone. Some medications help, but to better tackle ...

Team develops new approach to study long non-coding RNAs

April 19, 2018
Until recently, scientific research concentrated almost exclusively on the 2 percent of the genome's protein coding regions, virtually ignoring the other 98 percent - a vast universe of non-coding genetic material previously ...

Enduring cold temperatures alters fat cell epigenetics

April 19, 2018
A new study in fat cells has revealed a molecular mechanism that controls how lifestyle choices and the external environment affect gene expression. This mechanism includes potential targets for next-generation drug discovery ...

Gene-edited stem cells show promise against HIV in non-human primates

April 19, 2018
Gene editing of bone marrow stem cells in pigtail macaques infected with simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) significantly reduces the size of dormant "viral reservoirs" that pose a risk of reactivation. Christopher ...

Leptin's neural circuit identified—Genome-editing study reveals how hormone helps prevent both obesity and diabetes

April 18, 2018
Revealing surprising answers to a long-standing enigma about the brain target of the anti-obesity hormone leptin, neuroscientists at Tufts University School of Medicine have used CRISPR genome editing to identify a neural ...

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.