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AGING AT THE MOLECULAR LEVEL: CAN BACTERIA SHED LIGHT ON IT?

Roumyana Mironova

Abstract

Recent studies have challenged the paradigm that bacteria do not age and are immortal. Stewart et al. provided intriguing evidence that during division Escherichia coli K-12 exhibits functional asymmetry, leaving behind a mother cell with delayed growth and survival rate and a juvenile daughter cell, empowered to successfully perpetuate the species over time. In view of this new finding, bacteria, and in particular E. coli, emerged as a promising model for exploration of basic mechanisms of aging. It is not yet clear to what extent pro- and eukaryotic cells age similarly but at least some episodes of aging, especially those playing at the molecular level, should be common. Spontaneous chemical reactions including hydrolysis, oxidation and glycation (the Maillard reaction) are well known to deteriorate macromolecular structure and function. The Maillard reaction, yielding the so-called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) on proteins, DNA and amino-lipids, has long been associated with diseases (diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases) and aging in humans. We have demonstrated that despite the short life span of E. coli of tens of minutes to hours, its chromosomal DNA accumulates AGEs under normal growth conditions. Such progressive modification of a key biological molecule provides an independent line of evidence for E. coli aging. Subsequent studies led to the identification of several E. coli genes (hchA, yajL, yhbO, elbB, gcp), which are implicated in anti-glycation defense and are highly conserved. Thus, it appears that common molecular mechanisms underlie aging in all three domains of life (Bacteria, Archaea and Eukaryota), which gives us hope that E. coli may provide an excellent platform for deciphering the intimate mechanisms of aging.

Acknowledgements: Contract No. DH1/5-16.12.2016 from the Bulgarian National Science Fund and Contract No. DFNP-79 A-1/28.04.2016 from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences


Keywords

aging, Escherichia coli, Maillard reaction, glycation, AGEs




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14748/ssp.v4i1.3999

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Roumyana Mironova

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