Dietary restriction (DR), limiting nutrient intake from diet without causing malnutrition, delays the aging process and extends lifespan in multiple organisms. The conserved life-extending effect of DR suggests the involvement of fundamental mechanisms, although these remain a subject of debate. To help decipher the life-extending mechanisms of DR, we first compiled a list of genes that if genetically altered disrupt or prevent the life-extending effects of DR. We called these DR–essential genes and identified more than 100 in model organisms such as yeast, worms, flies, and mice. In order for other researchers to benefit from this first curated list of genes essential for DR, we established an online database called GenDR (http://genomics.senescence.info/diet/). To dissect the interactions of DR–essential genes and discover the underlying lifespan-extending mechanisms, we then used a variety of network and systems biology approaches to analyze the gene network of DR. We show that DR–essential genes are more conserved at the molecular level and have more molecular interactions than expected by chance. Furthermore, we employed a guilt-by-association method to predict novel DR–essential genes. In budding yeast, we predicted nine genes related to vacuolar functions; we show experimentally that mutations deleting eight of those genes prevent the life-extending effects of DR. Three of these mutants (OPT2, FRE6, and RCR2) had extended lifespan under ad libitum, indicating that the lack of further longevity under DR is not caused by a general compromise of fitness. These results demonstrate how network analyses of DR using GenDR can be used to make phenotypically relevant predictions. Moreover, gene-regulatory circuits reveal that the DR–induced transcriptional signature in yeast involves nutrient-sensing, stress responses and meiotic transcription factors. Finally, comparing the influence of gene expression changes during DR on the interactomes of multiple organisms led us to suggest that DR commonly suppresses translation, while stimulating an ancient reproduction-related process.
Dietary restriction has been shown to extend lifespan in diverse, evolutionarily distant species, yet its underlying mechanisms remain unknown. We first constructed a database of genes essential for the life-extending effects of dietary restriction in various model organisms and then studied their interactions using a variety of network and systems biology approaches. This enabled us to predict novel genes related to dietary restriction, which we validated experimentally in yeast. By comparing large-scale data compilations (interactomes and transcriptomes) from multiple organisms, we were able to condense this -omics information to the most conserved essential elements, eliminating species-specific adaptive responses. These results lead us to the rather surprising conclusion that lifespan extension by a restricted diet commonly may exploit an ancient rejuvenation process derived from gametogenesis.