While everyone wants to live a long and healthy life, it isn’t possible for everyone. However, recent research has highlighted the significance of the tumour suppressor protein PTEN that can increase your health span, when targeted to create therapies to promote a longer life span. This study was conducted under Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences.
It was published in the ‘Nature Communications Journal’. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) signalling (IIS) is one of the evolutionarily conserved ageing-modulatory pathways present in life forms ranging from tiny roundworms to humans. The proper reduction of IIS leads to longevity in animals but often causes defects in multiple health parameters including impaired motility, reproduction, and growth.
The research team found that a specific amino acid change in the PTEN protein improves health status while retaining the longevity conferred by reduced IIS. They used the roundworm C. elegans, an excellent model animal that has been widely used for ageing research, mainly because of its very short normal lifespan of about two to three weeks. The PTEN protein is a phosphatase that removed phosphate from lipids as well as proteins. Interestingly, the newly identified amino acid changed delicately recalibrated the IIS by partially maintaining protein phosphatase activity while reducing lipid phosphatase activity.
As a result, the amino acid change in the PTEN protein maintained the activity of the longevity-promoting transcription factor Forkhead Box O (FOXO) protein while restricting the detrimental upregulation of another transcription factor, NRF2, leading to long and healthy life in animals with reduced IIS.
Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee said, “Our study raises the exciting possibility of simultaneously promoting longevity and health in humans by slightly tweaking the activity of one protein, PTEN.”
This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea.