Although autophagy has widely been conceived as a self-destructive mechanism that causes cell death, accumulating evidence suggests that autophagy usually mediates cytoprotection, thereby avoiding the apoptotic or necrotic demise of stressed cells. Recent evidence produced by our groups demonstrates that autophagy is also involved in pharmacological manipulations that increase longevity. Exogenous supply of the polyamine spermidine can prolong the lifespan of (while inducing autophagy in) yeast, nematodes and flies.
Constitutive autophagy is important for the control of the quality of proteins and organelles to maintain cell function. Damaged proteins and organelles accumulate in aged organs. The level of autophagic activity decreases with aging. Autophagic activity is regulated by many factors, such as the insulin receptor-signaling pathway, the TOR pathway, Sirt1, and caloric restriction. Autophagy-related genes are known to be essential for the lifespan extension of flies, nematodes, and mice.
Macroautophagy is a self-cannibalistic process that enables cells to adapt to various stresses and maintain energy homeostasis. Additionally, autophagy is an important route for turnover of misfolded proteins and damaged organelles, with important implications in cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and aging. Resveratrol and spermidine are able to induce autophagy by affecting deacetylases and acetylases, respectively, and have been found to extend the life-span of model organisms.
Polyamines (putrescine, spermidine, and spermine) are a family of molecules that derive from ornithine through a decarboxylation process. They are essential for cell growth and proliferation, stabilization of negative charges of DNA, RNA transcription, translation, and apoptosis. Recently, it has been demonstrated that exogenously administered spermidine promotes longevity in yeasts, flies, worms, and human cultured immune cells.
Organismal lifespan can be extended by genetic manipulation of cellular processes such as histone acetylation, the insulin/IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) pathway or the p53 system. Longevity-promoting regimens, including caloric restriction and inhibition of TOR with rapamycin, resveratrol or the natural polyamine spermidine, have been associated with autophagy (a cytoprotective self-digestive process) and in some cases were reported to require autophagy for their effects.
Previous molecular genetic studies have shown that during programmed chromosomal healing, telomerase adds telomeric repeats directly to non-telomeric sequences in Tetrahymena, forming de novo telomeres. However, the biochemical mechanism underlying this process is not well understood. Here, we show for the first time that telomerase activity is capable in vitro of efficiently elongating completely non-telomeric DNA oligonucleotide primers, consisting of natural telomere-adjacent or random sequences, at low primer concentrations.
We have recently shown that the expression of spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase (SAT1) is downregulated across the brains of suicide completers, and that its expression is influenced by genetic variations in the promoter. Several promoter polymorphisms in SAT1, including rs6526342, have been associated with suicide and other psychiatric disorders, and display haplotype-specific effects on expression. However, these effects cannot explain total variability in SAT1 expression, and other regulatory mechanisms, such as epigenetic factors, may also be at play.
Biofilm formation constitutes an alternative lifestyle in which microorganisms adopt a multicellular behavior that facilitates and/or prolongs survival in diverse environmental niches. Biofilms form on biotic and abiotic surfaces both in the environment and in the healthcare setting. In hospital wards, the formation of biofilms on vents and medical equipment enables pathogens to persist as reservoirs that can readily spread to patients. Inside the host, biofilms allow pathogens to subvert innate immune defenses and are thus associated with long-term persistence.