The strong familiality of living to extreme ages suggests that human longevity is genetically regulated. The majority of genes found thus far to be associated with longevity primarily function in lipoprotein metabolism and insulin/IGF-1 signaling. There are likely many more genetic modifiers of human longevity that remain to be discovered.
Here, we first show that 18 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the RNA editing genes ADARB1 and ADARB2 are associated with extreme old age in a U.S. based study of centenarians, the New England Centenarian Study. We describe replications of these findings in three independently conducted centenarian studies with different genetic backgrounds (Italian, Ashkenazi Jewish and Japanese) that collectively support an association of ADARB1 and ADARB2 with longevity. Some SNPs in ADARB2 replicate consistently in the four populations and suggest a strong effect that is independent of the different genetic backgrounds and environments. To evaluate the functional association of these genes with lifespan, we demonstrate that inactivation of their orthologues adr-1 and adr-2 in C. elegans reduces median survival by 50%. We further demonstrate that inactivation of the argonaute gene, rde-1, a critical regulator of RNA interference, completely restores lifespan to normal levels in the context of adr-1 and adr-2 loss of function.
Our results suggest that RNA editors may be an important regulator of aging in humans and that, when evaluated in C. elegans, this pathway may interact with the RNA interference machinery to regulate lifespan.