Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic research shows degeneration in aging worm

Date:
May 29, 2010
Source:
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Summary:
Genetic research focusing on the soil nematode C. elegans has generated fundamental new insights into the way in which these tiny worms age. During the aging process, the activity of the worm's genes gradually becomes more turbulent and gene regulation declines. Because degenerative processes in worms and humans are similar, the research results offer clues for the prevention and medication of geriatric diseases.

Figure Upper section: The horizontal axis shows the length of the C. elegans genome for juvenile (black), reproductive (green) and old worms (red). The vertical axis shows the positions of the regulators across the entire genome. Each dot represents a gene. The diagonal line consists of self-regulatory genes; the others are regulated by regulators elsewhere in the genome. Lower section: The total number of regulators in young, reproductive and old worms. The self-regulating genes are dark colored, those regulated remotely are light colored.
Credit: Image courtesy of Wageningen University and Research Centre

Genetic research focusing on the soil nematode C. elegans has generated fundamental new insights into the way in which these tiny worms age. During the aging process, the activity of the worm's genes gradually becomes more turbulent and gene regulation declines. Because degenerative processes in worms and humans are similar, the research results offer clues for the prevention and medication of geriatric diseases.

Researchers at Wageningen University publish their findings in the online edition of the journal Genome Research.

The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans is just one millimetre long and is naturally found in the soil. The worm is often used in fundamental biological research. Many worm genes also occur in humans and perform comparable, vital functions in life processes such as breathing and cell division. The degenerative process in the nematode C. elegans is therefore a model for the changes which take place in the aging human being. Despite intensive research over the past twenty years, it is still unclear when and how the degeneration of the body occurs.

Led by Jan Kammenga, the research team from Wageningen University chair group Nematology, part of Wageningen UR, analysed activity in the totality of the genes (the so-called genome) in C. elegans, which numbers approximately 18,000 genes. They also measured genome activity both in young nematodes (40 hours old) and older nematodes which are no longer able to reproduce (214 hours old), among dozens of different strains of worms which vary in genome composition.

Comparison of the activity showed that in the young nematodes, the level of gene expression is even and constant: the level of activity barely varies. In the older worms, by contrast, there is a large fluctuation in gene expression. Some groups of genes have low gene expression, much lower than in young worms, while other gene groups exhibit tumultuous activity, much higher than in young worms. "Like the lid flying off a pan of boiling water," as one of the researchers, Ana Viρuela, put it.

In order to see whether this activity is caused by regulatory functions being lost with age, the team compared the gene expression of the various strains with the genome of each. That comparison showed that the number of genes which regulate themselves falls with age, while the number of genes regulated from elsewhere in the genome rises. This means that regulation is taking place in multiple steps, making it more vulnerable to disruption.

But this pattern shows a particular development. A limited set of genes are in fact regulated in a targeted way by a single group of regulators. This set of genes has been found to be capable of extending the lifespan of C. elegans and is therefore of vital importance. They play an important protective role against all kinds of stress factors. "We have discovered new regulatory factors which play a role in the overall degeneration of the genetic code which influences lifespan," says Kammenga.

For the first time, the research offers an understanding of the dynamics of gene expression regulation over the entire lifespan of an organism. Fellow researcher Basten Snoek says it is "brilliant to see that there are gene expression patterns which are hereditary." The use of C. elegans as a model for such research is hard to match. Mice, rats and other test animals which resemble humans more closely than C. elegans live too long to be able to conduct a complete age test on a large scale. Experimental genetic research in humans is impossible for practical and ethical reasons. The worm is therefore an excellent model for this type of research. The results can be used to investigate gene expression variation in older humans in a more focused way and to look for comparable regulators to the worm's. This could lead to new receptors for prevention and medication to treat geriatric diseases, such as particular types of cancer.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wageningen University and Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Vinuela, L. B. Snoek, J. A. G. Riksen, J. E. Kammenga. Genome-wide gene expression regulation as a function of genotype and age in C. elegans. Genome Research, 2010; DOI: 10.1101/gr.102160.109

Cite This Page:

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Genetic research shows degeneration in aging worm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527213901.htm>.
Wageningen University and Research Centre. (2010, May 29). Genetic research shows degeneration in aging worm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527213901.htm
Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Genetic research shows degeneration in aging worm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527213901.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) — An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) — The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins