Posted on 27 May 2020
In a recent study, the novel anti-aging protein Gaf1 was identified, it was found to control protein metabolism which has been implicated in aging and disease; cells without Gaf1 were found to have a shorter lifespan.
Studies have found that lifespan can be extended, in some cases drastically, by calorie restriction and fasting. Signalling and regulatory molecules involved in regulating the response to nutrients are therefore of interest in the field of ageing research.
Gaf1 is a recently discovered molecule that is involved in controlling cell growth in response to the availability of– the building blocks that cells use to make proteins. When are available, a protein called TOR signals cells to grow. When are scarce, Gaf1 blocks the genes responsible for producing , the molecule that assembles into new proteins. This effectively halts cell growth.
Cells lacking in Gaf1 have been found to be short-lived; TOR signals cells to grow which contributes to aging, but when TOR is inhibited the growth is halted and extends lifespan. When Gaf1 is not present growth is not halted and the observed extension in lifespan is not taking place fully, meaning a molecule was found by the scientists that mediates some of the beneficial effects of dietary restriction.
This study was examining yeasts, but proteins similar to Gaf1 exist in many animals which includes humans, and they have been shown to control development as well as stem cells which are important in whether we develop diseases. It may be possible that these proteins have the same functions in humans that were observed with Gaf1 in yeast.
TOR function, cell growth and protein production are important to physiology and healthspan but they can also contribute to the development of certain diseases. This study has demonstrated how dietary restriction is controlled down to the cell’s genes, and the findings may allow for the examination of how specific drugs or diets can work to enhance the function of these factors for beneficial effects that may even increase human healthspan.