Segmental progeroid syndromes are groups of disorders with multiple features suggestive of accelerated aging. One subset of adult-onset progeroid syndromes, referred to as atypical Werner syndrome, is caused by mutations in the LMNA gene, which encodes a class of nuclear intermediate filaments, lamin A/C. We previously described rapid telomere attrition and accelerated replicative senescence in cultured fibroblasts overexpressing mutant lamin A. In this study, we investigated the cellular phenotypes associated with accelerated telomere shortening in LMNA mutant primary fibroblasts. In early passage primary fibroblasts with R133L or L140R LMNA mutations, shelterin protein components were already reduced while cells still retained telomere lengths comparable to those of controls. There was a significant inverse correlation between the degree of abnormal nuclear morphology and the level of TRF2, a shelterin subunit, suggesting a potential causal relationship. Stabilization of the telomeres via the introduction of the catalytic subunit of human telomerase, hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase), did not prevent degradation of shelterin components, indicating that reduced TRF2 in LMNA mutants is not mediated by short telomeres. Interestingly, γ-H2AX foci (reflecting double strand DNA damage) in early passage LMNA mutant primary fibroblasts and LMNA mutant hTERT fibroblasts were markedly increased in non-telomeric regions of DNA. Our results raise the possibility that mutant lamin A/C causes global genomic instability with accumulation of non-telomeric DNA damage as an early event, followed by TRF2 degradation and telomere shortening.
lamin A/C; telomeres; TRF2; progeroid syndromes; laminopathies
The social and medical costs of the biological aging process are high and will rise rapidly in coming decades, creating an enormous challenge to societies worldwide. In recent decades, researchers have expanded their understanding of the underlying deleterious structural and physiological changes (aging damage) that underlie the progressive functional impairments, declining health, and rising mortality of aging humans and other organisms and have been able to intervene in the process in model organisms, even late in life. To preempt a global aging crisis, we advocate an ambitious global initiative to translate these findings into interventions for aging humans, using three complementary approaches to retard, arrest, and even reverse aging damage, extending and even restoring the period of youthful health and functionality of older people.
All phenotypes result from interactions between Nature, Nurture and Chance. The constitutional genome is clearly the dominant factor in explaining the striking differences in the pace and patterns of ageing among species. We are now in a position to reveal salient features underlying these differential modulations, which are likely to be dominated by regulatory domains. By contrast, I shall argue that stochastic events are the major players underlying the surprisingly large intra-specific variations in lifespan and healthspan. I shall review well established as well as more speculative categories of chance events – somatic mutations, protein synthesis error catastrophe and variegations of gene expression (epigenetic drift), with special emphasis upon the latter. I shall argue that stochastic drifts in variegated gene expression are the major contributors to intra-specific differences in the pace and patterns of ageing within members of the same species. They may be responsible for the quasi-stochastic distributions of major types of geriatric pathologies, including the “big three” of Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis and, via the induction of hyperplasis, cancer. They may be responsible for altered stoichiometries of heteromultimeric mitochondrial complexes, potentially leading to such disorders as sarcopenia, nonischemic cardiomyopathy and Parkinson's disease.
Somatic mutation; Epigenetic drift; Stochastic events; Evolutionary biology; Mitochondria; Geriatric pathology
FE65 is a multi-modular adaptor protein that binds the cytoplasmic tail of the β-amyloid precursor protein (APP). Genetic evidence suggests that APP is intimately involved in the pathogenesis of dementias of the Alzheimer type, neurodegenerative disorders that affect multiple cognitive domains, including learning and memory. Evidence from p97FE65-specific knockout mice (lacking the 97 kDa full-length FE65 protein, p97FE65) suggests an important role for FE65 in learning and memory. Interpretation of the learning and memory phenotype, however, is complicated by the up-regulation (compared to wild-type mice) of a novel 60 kDa FE65 isoform (p60FE65). Here, we report evidence that p60FE65 is translated from an alternative methionine, M261, on the p97FE65 transcript. Thus, p60FE65 has a shortened N-terminus, lacking part of the WW domain that is considered important for nuclear translocation and transactivation of gene expression. Consistently, p60FE65 exhibits an attenuated ability for APP-Gal4-mediated transcription as compared to p97FE65. Similar to p97FE65, however, both transfected and endogenous p60FE65 are able to translocate to the nucleus in cultured cells and in neurons. These results are consistent with earlier evidence from our laboratory that reduced FE65 nuclear signaling may contribute, in part, to the phenotypes observed in p97FE65 knockout mice.
FE65 isoforms; alternative translation; transcription; nuclear localization; APP
Our susceptibility to disease increases as we grow older. Robert Butler and colleagues argue that interventions to slow down ageing could therefore have much greater benefit than those targeted at individual disease
To determine whether the mean leukocyte telomere length (LTL) serves as a biomarker of disability assessed by Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and what factors may modify this relationship.
Retrospective cross-sectional study.
A subset of the National Long Term Care Survey (NTLCS), a Medicare-based U.S. population longitudinal study focused on trends of overall health and functional status in the elderly.
Six hundred and twenty four individuals from the 1999 wave of the NTLCS cohort.
Relative LTL determined by quantitative PCR. LTL has previously been shown to correlate with common age-related disorders and mortality, as well as with socioeconomical status.
We observed gender difference of LTL, but not age-dependent shortening or association with socio-economical status. Importantly, LTL was associated with disability and functional status assessed by ADL. The association between ADL and LTL was more significant among non-diabetic subjects, while associations were not seen when diabetic subjects only were analyzed. Associations of LTL with cardiovascular diseases and cancer were also present in the non-diabetic group, but not in the diabetic group.
Our findings support the concept that LTL is a biomarker of overall well-being that is predictive of disability of older individuals in the US population. Diabetes plays an important role as a modifier of the association of LTL with disability, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. These associations have obvious clinical implications due to the potential predictive value of LTL and deserve further investigation.
disability; telomere; aging; disease; human
Age is a major risk for cardiovascular diseases. Although mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been proposed as one of the causes of aging, their role in cardiac aging remains unclear. We have previously shown that overexpression of catalase targeted to mitochondria (mCAT) prolongs murine median lifespan by 17-21%.
Methods and Results:
We used echocardiography to study cardiac function in aging cohorts of wild type (WT) and mCAT mice. Changes found in WT mice recapitulate human aging: age-dependent increases in left ventricular mass index (LVMI) and left atrial dimension, worsening of the myocardial performance index (MPI), and a decline in diastolic function. Cardiac aging in mice is accompanied by accumulation of mitochondrial protein oxidation, increased mitochondrial DNA mutations and deletions and mitochondrial biogenesis, increased ventricular fibrosis, enlarged myocardial fiber size, decreased cardiac SERCA2 protein and activation of the calcineurin-NFAT pathway. All of these age-related changes were significantly attenuated in mCAT mice. Analysis of survival of 130 mice demonstrated that echocardiographic cardiac aging risk scores were significant predictors of mortality. The estimated attributable risk to mortality for these two parameters was 55%.
This study shows that cardiac aging in the mouse closely recapitulates human aging and demonstrates the critical role of mitochondrial ROS in cardiac aging and the impact of cardiac aging on survival. These findings also support the potential application of mitochondrial antioxidants in ROS-related cardiovascular diseases.
aging; diastole; mitochondria; oxidant stress; survival
Gprc5b, a retinoic acid-inducible orphan G protein–coupled receptor (GPCR), is a member of the group C metabotropic glutamate receptor family proteins possibly involved in non-canonical Wnt signaling. Many GPCR transcripts are alternatively spliced, which diversifies this class of proteins in their cell- and tissue-specific signaling, regulatory and/or pharmacological properties. We previously generated p97FE65 isoform-specific knockout mice that showed learning/memory deficits. In this study, we further characterized the 97FE65 null mice using cDNA microarray and RT-PCR analyses.
We discovered a novel brain-specific C-terminal splice variant of Gprc5b, Gprc5b_v2, which was differentially expressed in p97FE65 wild type and null mouse brains. The null mice were generated in 129/Sv ES cells, and backcrossed to C57Bl/6J for ten generations. We found that expression of Gprc5b_v2 mRNA in the brains of p97FE65 null mice was dramatically down-regulated (more than 20 fold) compared to their wild type littermates. However, expression profiles of Gprc5b variants and SNP analysis surrounding the FE65 locus suggest that the down-regulation is unlikely due to the altered FE65 function, but rather is caused by gene retention from the 129/Sv ES cells. Consistently, in contrast to ubiquitously expressed Gprc5b_v1, Gprc5b_v2 was predominantly expressed in the brain tissues of C57Bl/6J mice. The alternative splicing of the 3′ terminal exon also altered the protein coding sequences, giving rise to the characteristic C-termini. Levels of Gprc5b_v2 mRNA were increased during neuronal maturation, paralleling the expression of synaptic proteins. Overexpression of both Gprc5b variants stimulated neurite-like outgrowth in a neuroblastoma cell line.
Our results suggest that Gprc5b-v2 may play a role during brain maturation and in matured brain, possibly through the regulation of neuronal morphology and protein-protein interaction. This study also highlights the fact that unexpected gene retention following repeated backcrosses can lead to important biological consequences.
To re-examine a health-protective role of the common Apolipoprotein E (APOE) polymorphism focusing on connections between the APOE ε2-containing genotypes and impairments in instrumental activities of daily living [IADL] in older (65+) males and females. To examine how these connections may be mediated by diagnosed coronary heart disease (CHD), Alzheimer's disease, colorectal cancer, macular degeneration (MD), and atherosclerosis.
Retrospective cross-sectional study.
The unique disability-focused data from a genetic sub-sample of the 1999 National Long Term Care Survey linked with Medicare service use files.
1733 genotyped individuals interviewed on IADL disabilities.
Indicators of IADL impairments, five geriatric disorders, and ε2-containing genotypes.
The ε2/3 genotype is a major contributor to adverse associations between the ε2 allele and IADL disability in males [Odds Ratio (OR)=3.09, Confidence Interval (CI)=1.53-6.26)]. It shows, however, significant protective effects for CHD (OR=0.55, CI=0.33-0.92), while CHD is adversely associated with IADL disability (OR=2.18, CI=1.28-3.72). The presence of five diseases does not significantly alter the adverse association between ε2-containing genotypes and disability. Protective effects of the ε2/3 genotype for CHD (OR=0.52, CI=0.27-0.99) and deleterious effects for IADL (OR=3.50, CI=1.71-7.14) for males hold in multivariate models with both these factors included. No significant associations between the ε2-containing genotypes and IADL are found in females.
The ε2 allele can play a dual role in males, protecting them against some health disorders, while promoting others. Strong adverse relationships with disability suggest that ε2-containing genotypes can be unfavorable factors for the health/well-being of aging males.
Apolipoprotein E; cardiovascular disease; disability; sex differences
Early studies reported controversial findings on association of Apolipoprotein E (APOE) polymorphism with disability.
To analyze sex-specific associations of APOE genotypes with impairments in (Instrumental) Activities of Daily Living [(I)ADL] and mortality.
Population-based 1999 National Long Term Care Survey of the U.S. older (65+) individuals.
Genetic data are available for 1805 individuals.
Each of six genotypes of three common alleles of the APOE locus (ε2, ε3, and ε4) was tested on the association with a disability index or mortality.
APOE ε3/3 genotype significantly decreases odds ratio (OR) for IADL disability in males (OR=0.48; 95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 0.31–0.76) while it exhibits no association in females. The OR for ADL disability is 0.19 (CI: 0.04–0.99) for ε4/4 female carriers. The ε2/3 genotype increases the chances of IADL disability for males (OR=2.33; CI: 1.28–4.25). No significant association between APOE polymorphism and mortality was found. A surprising observation was that ε4/4 female carriers have a 5.3 times lower chance of having ADL disability than do non-ε4/4-carriers.
Associations of the APOE polymorphism with disability and lack of association with mortality supports the view that APOE gene actions may be more significant as modulators of frailty than of longevity.
Apolipoprotein E; disability; sex differences; elderly
LMNA mutations are responsible for a variety of genetic disorders, including muscular dystrophy, lipodystrophy, and certain progeroid syndromes, notably Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria. Although a number of clinical features of these disorders are suggestive of accelerated aging, it is not known whether cells derived from these patients exhibit cellular phenotypes associated with accelerated aging. We examined a series of isogenic skin fibroblast lines transfected with LMNA constructs bearing known pathogenic point mutations or deletion mutations found in progeroid syndromes. Fibroblasts overexpressing mutant lamin A exhibited accelerated rates of loss of telomeres and shortened replicative lifespans, in addition to abnormal nuclear morphology. To our surprise, these abnormalities were also observed in lines overexpressing wild-type lamin A. Copy number variants are common in human populations; those involving LMNA, whether arising meiotically or mitotically, might lead to progeroid phenotypes. In an initial pilot study of 23 progeroid cases without detectible WRN or LMNA mutations, however, no cases of altered LMNA copy number were detected. Nevertheless, our findings raise a hypothesis that changes in lamina organization may cause accelerated telomere attrition, with different kinetics for overexpession of wild-type and mutant lamin A, which leads to rapid replicative senescence and progroid phenotypes.
Lamin; laminopathies; progeroid syndromes; Hutchison-Gilford Progeroid Syndrome; Aging
Ageing mammals are subject to an amazing array of aberrations in proliferative homeostasis. These are of two basic types: the post-maturational failure to adequately replace effete somatic cells (atrophies) and excessive proliferations of somatic cells (hyperplasias). To a surprising degree, these occur side by side within the same tissues and are features of numerous mammalian geriatric disorders. Atrophy is the likely usual initial event, the proliferative response perhaps developing as a secondary, compensatory, initially adaptive reaction. We have little understanding of why this putative compensatory reaction so often fails to be appropriately regulated in ageing mammals, leading to such pathologies as chronic inflammation, fibrosis, metaplasia and neoplasia. Advances in formal genetic analysis, mutagenesis, stem cell biology and epigenetics are likely to provide major new understanding. Stochastic epigenetic shifts in gene expression are of growing interest, particularly in explaining intra-specific variations on rates and patterns of ageing. Nature may well have evolved such random fluctuations in gene expression as a type of group-selectionist adaptive strategy to cope with diverse stochastic environmental challenges. Alternatively, such background “noise” in transcription and translation may simply reflect a type of informational entropy.
Biology of Ageing; Proliferative Homeostasis; Atrophy; Hyperplasia; Somatic cell mutation; Stem Cells; Genetic Analysis; Epigenetics
Laminopathies are a group of genetic disorders caused by LMNA mutations; they include muscular dystrophies, lipodystrophies and progeroid syndromes. We identified a novel heterozygous LMNA mutation, L59R, in a patient with the general appearance of mandibuloacral dysplasia and progeroid features. Examination of the nuclei of dermal fibroblasts revealed the irregular morphology characteristic of LMNA mutant cells. The nuclear morphological abnormalities of LMNA mutant lymphoblastoid cell lines were less prominent compared to those of primary fibroblasts. Since it has been reported that progeroid features are associated with increased extracellular matrix in dermal tissues, we compared a subset of these components in fibroblast cultures from LMNA mutants with those of control fibroblasts. There was no evidence of intracellular accumulation or altered mobility of collagen chains, or altered conversion of procollagen to collagen, suggesting that skin fibroblast-mediated matrix production may not play a significant role in the pathogenesis of this particular laminopathy.
Progeroid syndrome; Laminopathy; Collagen; Aging
We review three approaches to the genetic analysis of the biology and pathobiology of human aging. The first and so far the best-developed is the search for the biochemical genetic basis of varying susceptibilities to major geriatric disorders. These include a range of progeroid syndromes. Collectively, they tell us much about the genetics of health span. Given that the major risk factor for virtually all geriatric disorders is biological aging, they may also serve as markers for the study of intrinsic biological aging. The second approach seeks to identify allelic contributions to exceptionally long life spans. While linkage to a locus on Chromosome 4 has not been confirmed, association studies have revealed a number of significant polymorphisms that impact upon late-life diseases and life span. The third approach remains theoretical. It would require longitudinal studies of large numbers of middle-aged sib-pairs who are extremely discordant or concordant for their rates of decline in various physiological functions. We can conclude that there are great opportunities for research on the genetics of human aging, particularly given the huge fund of information on human biology and pathobiology, and the rapidly developing knowledge of the human genome.
The SOD2 gene encodes an antioxidant enzyme, mitochondrial superoxide dismutase. SOD2 polymorphisms are of interest because of their potential roles in the modulation of free radical-mediated macromolecular damage during aging.
We identified a new splice variant of SOD2 in human lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). The alternatively spliced product was originally detected by exon trapping of a minigene in order to examine the consequences of an intronic polymorphism found upstream of exon 4 (nucleotide 8136, 10T vs 9T). Examination of the transcripts derived from the endogenous loci in five LCLs with or without the intron 3 polymorphism revealed low levels of an in-frame deletion of exon 4 that were different from those detected by the exon trap assay. This suggested that exon trapping of the minigene unmasked the effect of the 10T vs 9T polymorphism on the splicing of the adjacent exon.
We also determined the frequencies of single nucleotide polymorphisms in a sample of US African-Americans and non-African-Americans ages 65 years and older who participated in the 1999 wave of the National Long Term Care Survey (NLTCS). Particularly striking differences between African-Americans and non-African-Americans were found for the frequencies of genotypes at the 10T/9T intron 3 polymorphism.
Exon trapping can unmask in vitro splicing differences caused by a 10T/9T intron 3 polymorphism. Given the recent evidence that SOD2 is in a region on chromosome 6 linked to susceptibility to hypertension, it will be of interest to investigate possible associations of this polymorphism with cardiovascular disorders.
On behalf of American Aging Association and his many biogerontological colleagues, the author thanks Huber R. Warner for his 21 years of exemplary service at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). In so honoring Dr. Warner, we also honor his many associates at that “user friendly” branch of the National Institutes of Health. Some highlights of Dr. Warner's scientific training, academic career and special contributions while serving in a leadership position at the NIA are reviewed. We wish him well as he returns to the University of Minnesota, this time as Associate Dean of Research in the College of Arts and Sciences.
aging; antioxidant; apoptosis; NIA; Hutchinson–Gilford syndrome; mitochondrial dysfunction; phospholipids; replicative senescence
With the rapid expansion of scientific research, the ability to effectively find or integrate new domain knowledge in the sciences is proving increasingly difficult. Efforts to improve and speed up scientific discovery are being explored on a number of fronts. However, much of this work is based on traditional search and retrieval approaches and the bibliographic citation presentation format remains unchanged.
The Telemakus KnowledgeBase System provides flexible new tools for creating knowledgebases to facilitate retrieval and review of scientific research reports. In formalizing the representation of the research methods and results of scientific reports, Telemakus offers a potential strategy to enhance the scientific discovery process. While other research has demonstrated that aggregating and analyzing research findings across domains augments knowledge discovery, the Telemakus system is unique in combining document surrogates with interactive concept maps of linked relationships across groups of research reports.
Based on how scientists conduct research and read the literature, the Telemakus KnowledgeBase System brings together three innovations in analyzing, displaying and summarizing research reports across a domain: (1) research report schema, a document surrogate of extracted research methods and findings presented in a consistent and structured schema format which mimics the research process itself and provides a high-level surrogate to facilitate searching and rapid review of retrieved documents; (2) research findings, used to index the documents, allowing searchers to request, for example, research studies which have studied the relationship between neoplasms and vitamin E; and (3) visual exploration interface of linked relationships for interactive querying of research findings across the knowledgebase and graphical displays of what is known as well as, through gaps in the map, what is yet to be tested. The rationale and system architecture are described and plans for the future are discussed.
Werner syndrome (WS) is a human progeroid syndrome characterized by the early onset of a large number of clinical features associated with the normal aging process. The complex molecular and cellular phenotypes of WS involve characteristic features of genomic instability and accelerated replicative senescence. The gene involved (WRN) was recently cloned, and its gene product (WRNp) was biochemically characterized as a helicase. Helicases play important roles in a variety of DNA transactions, including DNA replication, transcription, repair, and recombination. We have assessed the role of the WRN gene in transcription by analyzing the efficiency of basal transcription in WS lymphoblastoid cell lines that carry homozygous WRN mutations. Transcription was measured in permeabilized cells by [3H]UTP incorporation and in vitro by using a plasmid template containing the RNA polymerase II (RNA pol II)–dependent adenovirus major late promoter. With both of these approaches, we find that the transcription efficiency in different WS cell lines is reduced to 40–60% of the transcription in cells from normal individuals. This defect can be complemented by the addition of normal cell extracts to the chromatin of WS cells. Addition of purified wild-type WRNp but not mutated WRNp to the in vitro transcription assay markedly stimulates RNA pol II–dependent transcription carried out by nuclear extracts. A nonhelicase domain (a direct repeat of 27 amino acids) also appears to have a role in transcription enhancement, as revealed by a yeast hybrid–protein reporter assay. This is further supported by the lack of stimulation of transcription when mutant WRNp lacking this domain was added to the in vitro assay. We have thus used several approaches to show a role for WRNp in RNA pol II transcription, possibly as a transcriptional activator. A deficit in either global or regional transcription in WS cells may be a primary molecular defect responsible for the WS clinical phenotype.
The International Registry of Werner syndrome (www.wernersyndrome.org) has been providing molecular diagnosis of the Werner syndrome (WS) for the past decade. The present communication summarizes, from among 99 WS subjects, the spectrum of 50 distinct mutations discovered by our group and by others since the WRN gene (also called RECQL2 or REQ3) was first cloned in 1996; 25 of these have not previously been published. All WRN mutations reported thus far have resulted in the elimination of the nuclear localization signal at the C-terminus of the protein, precluding functional interactions in the nucleus; thus, all could be classified as null mutations. We now report two new mutations in the N-terminus that result in instability of the WRN protein. Clinical data confirm that the most penetrant phenotype is bilateral ocular cataracts. Other cardinal signs were seen in more than 95% of the cases. The median age of death, previously reported to be in the range of 46–48 years, is 54 years. Lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) have been cryopreserved from the majority of our index cases, including material from nuclear pedigrees. These, as well as inducible and complemented hTERT (catalytic subunit of human telomerase) immortalized skin fibroblast cell lines are available to qualified investigators. Published 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.†
Werner syndrome; WRN; RECQL2; RECQ3; Werner helicase; RecQ helicases; progeroid syndromes; aging; international registries; penetrance; aging