Calories key to longevity, study finds

Calories key to longevity, study finds

The enzyme responsible for the reliable transcription of cells, as the copying of information from DNA is called, lies behind aging, according to researchers at German institutes.

A group of researchers, including five Greeks, discovered that the RNA polymerase responsible for cell transcription moves along the DNA faster in aged cells than in young cells, resulting in more errors in the process.

The expectation is that simple interventions will restore transcription speed to normal levels. These include diet, particularly the number of calories consumed per day, which can affect transcription and improve the function of aged cells.

“There is a basic mechanism of our cell function, the dysregulation of which explains aging to a significant extent. How this mechanism is dysregulated was a surprise,” explains Argyris Papantonis, professor of Epigenetics at the University of Goettingen Medical School, who, together with researchers from the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute, coordinated the project, whose findings were recently published in the Nature journal.

Transcription, the copying of information from our DNA on which new proteins are produced, is one of the fundamental functions of cells. RNA polymerase is the enzyme in charge of reliable information transcription.

“A key feature of aged cells is that they perform many of their functions with significantly reduced reliability. DNA transcription is no exception and so aged cells make more ‘mistakes’,” noted the 45-year-old scientist. “But we were interested in discovering the reason behind this ever-decreasing reliability in polymerase function.”

The collaborating research teams found that RNA polymerase moves along DNA faster in aged than in young cells as it transcribes. “We hypothesized that a change in transcription speed would make the polymerase more error-prone. This hypothesis has been strongly confirmed,” said Papantonis.

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