Scientists have proposed a new explanation for aging

What does the aging process of humans and animals depend on? A group of scientists from the University of Georgia believe that they have found the answer to this long-standing question. The researchers presented strong evidence that aging is largely caused by a modification of gene expression, not by a change in the genetic code. An article published in Trends in Genetics reports that this process depends on the density of CpG islands.

CpG islands are important because this is where DNA methylation occurs, the scientists say. Gene activity depends on this process, and epigenetic changes affect the viability of the cell, whether it's a skin cell or a neuron. 

Throughout the life of the body, the methylation profile undergoes changes, but aging is also affected by another factor - the two-chain breaks that occur in the genome. These damages can be effectively reduced by proteins known as chromatin modifiers.

The authors of the study found that these proteins leave the CpG sites to repair the breaks, and their movement changes the expression of genes, and thus affects the fate of the cell. In other words, they, like soldiers, leave their place to protect the whole "territory" and many of them do not return. The islands themselves become vulnerable without them, the scientists explain.

CpG islands are filled with CpG sites - DNA sites where the cytosine is followed by guanine and they are linked by a phosphate bond. Species with a higher life expectancy, such as humans, alligators, and elephants, are known to have a higher density of CpG islands than fish or rodents, for example. The authors believe that the more CpG sites in these areas, the more likely it is that chromatin modifiers will return to their place. They also serve as a buffer, which helps to keep the epigenetic landscape unchanged.


Sept. 8, 2020, 11:09 a.m.

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