A recent paper from Anne Simonsen and co-workers published in the journal Autophagy (impact factor 6,7) - showing that induction of autophagy in the neurons of aging flies strongly increases their life span - is dedicated an editorial ("Editor's choice") in the 14th December issue of Science. Simonsen is the leader of the project group "Autophagy in health and disease" at the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR).
Live Long and Prosper (from Editors' Choice: Highlights of the recent literature, Science 14 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5857, p. 1697 )
Autophagy, the degradation of intracellular components that occurs in response to starvation, is also important in the response to stress and in development and disease—both as a defense mechanism and as a pathological consequence. Simonsen et al. found that Drosophila lacking key autophagy-related genes had a reduced life span, and then went on to examine to what extent the promotion of autophagy in the nervous system could affect aging. During aging in the normal fly, the levels of autophagy within neurons fall, leading to the accumulation of ubiquitinated protein aggregates. By increasing the levels of expression of an autophagy-related gene, Atg8a, in aging neurons, the authors were able to increase adult life span by more than 50% and saw a concomitant reduction in the levels of ubiquitinated aggregates in the aging brains. Further, these engineered flies were also more resistant to oxidative stress.
Download the editorial (in PDF format)
Simonsen A, Cumming RC, Brech A, Isakson P, Schubert DR, Finley KD.
Promoting basal levels of autophagy in the nervous system enhances longevity and oxidant resistance in adult Drosophila. (link to PubMed)
Autophagy. 2007 Nov 6;4(2)
"Science daily", Dec 19. 2007: Aging Gracefully Requires Taking Out The Trash
From the ingress: " Suppressing a cellular cleanup-mechanism known as autophagy can accelerate the accumulation of protein aggregates that leads to neural degeneration. In an upcoming issue of Autophagy, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies report for the first time that the opposite is true as well: Boosting autophagy in the nervous system of fruit flies prevented the age-dependent accumulation of cellular damage in neurons and promoted longevity."
Press release from the Salk Institute (Dec 21, 2007)