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      Widespread Protein Aggregation as an Inherent Part of Aging in C. elegans


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          Several hundred proteins become insoluble and aggregation-prone as a consequence of aging in Caenorhabditis elegans. The data indicate that these proteins influence disease-related protein aggregation and toxicity.


          Aberrant protein aggregation is a hallmark of many age-related diseases, yet little is known about whether proteins aggregate with age in a non-disease setting. Using a systematic proteomics approach, we identified several hundred proteins that become more insoluble with age in the multicellular organism Caenorhabditis elegans. These proteins are predicted to be significantly enriched in β-sheets, which promote disease protein aggregation. Strikingly, these insoluble proteins are highly over-represented in aggregates found in human neurodegeneration. We examined several of these proteins in vivo and confirmed their propensity to aggregate with age. Different proteins aggregated in different tissues and cellular compartments. Protein insolubility and aggregation were significantly delayed or even halted by reduced insulin/IGF-1-signaling, which also slows aging. We found a significant overlap between proteins that become insoluble and proteins that influence lifespan and/or polyglutamine-repeat aggregation. Moreover, overexpressing one aggregating protein enhanced polyglutamine-repeat pathology. Together our findings indicate that widespread protein insolubility and aggregation is an inherent part of aging and that it may influence both lifespan and neurodegenerative disease.

          Author Summary

          In neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease, specific proteins escape the cell's quality-control system and associate together, forming insoluble aggregates. Until now, little was known about whether proteins aggregate in a non-disease context. In this study, we discovered that the aging process itself, in the absence of disease, leads to the insolubilization and increased aggregation propensity of several hundred proteins in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. These aggregation-prone proteins have distinct structural and functional proprieties. We asked if this inherent age-dependent protein aggregation impacts neurodegenerative diseases. We found that proteins similar to those aggregating in old worms have also been identified as minor components of human disease aggregates. In addition, we showed that higher levels of inherent protein aggregation aggravated toxicity in a C. elegans Huntington's disease model. Inherent protein aggregation is a new biomarker of aging. Understanding how to modulate it will lead to important insights into the mechanisms that underlie aging and protein aggregation diseases.

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          Most cited references74

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          Aggresomes: A Cellular Response to Misfolded Proteins

          Intracellular deposition of misfolded protein aggregates into ubiquitin-rich cytoplasmic inclusions is linked to the pathogenesis of many diseases. Why these aggregates form despite the existence of cellular machinery to recognize and degrade misfolded protein and how they are delivered to cytoplasmic inclusions are not known. We have investigated the intracellular fate of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), an inefficiently folded integral membrane protein which is degraded by the cytoplasmic ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. Overexpression or inhibition of proteasome activity in transfected human embryonic kidney or Chinese hamster ovary cells led to the accumulation of stable, high molecular weight, detergent-insoluble, multiubiquitinated forms of CFTR. Using immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopy with immunogold labeling, we demonstrate that undegraded CFTR molecules accumulate at a distinct pericentriolar structure which we have termed the aggresome. Aggresome formation is accompanied by redistribution of the intermediate filament protein vimentin to form a cage surrounding a pericentriolar core of aggregated, ubiquitinated protein. Disruption of microtubules blocks the formation of aggresomes. Similarly, inhibition of proteasome function also prevented the degradation of unassembled presenilin-1 molecules leading to their aggregation and deposition in aggresomes. These data lead us to propose that aggresome formation is a general response of cells which occurs when the capacity of the proteasome is exceeded by the production of aggregation-prone misfolded proteins.
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            Stochastic and genetic factors influence tissue-specific decline in ageing C. elegans.

            The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is an important model for studying the genetics of ageing, with over 50 life-extension mutations known so far. However, little is known about the pathobiology of ageing in this species, limiting attempts to connect genotype with senescent phenotype. Using ultrastructural analysis and visualization of specific cell types with green fluorescent protein, we examined cell integrity in different tissues as the animal ages. We report remarkable preservation of the nervous system, even in advanced old age, in contrast to a gradual, progressive deterioration of muscle, resembling human sarcopenia. The age-1(hx546) mutation, which extends lifespan by 60-100%, delayed some, but not all, cellular biomarkers of ageing. Strikingly, we found strong evidence that stochastic as well as genetic factors are significant in C. elegans ageing, with extensive variability both among same-age animals and between cells of the same type within individuals.
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              CATH--a hierarchic classification of protein domain structures.

              Protein evolution gives rise to families of structurally related proteins, within which sequence identities can be extremely low. As a result, structure-based classifications can be effective at identifying unanticipated relationships in known structures and in optimal cases function can also be assigned. The ever increasing number of known protein structures is too large to classify all proteins manually, therefore, automatic methods are needed for fast evaluation of protein structures. We present a semi-automatic procedure for deriving a novel hierarchical classification of protein domain structures (CATH). The four main levels of our classification are protein class (C), architecture (A), topology (T) and homologous superfamily (H). Class is the simplest level, and it essentially describes the secondary structure composition of each domain. In contrast, architecture summarises the shape revealed by the orientations of the secondary structure units, such as barrels and sandwiches. At the topology level, sequential connectivity is considered, such that members of the same architecture might have quite different topologies. When structures belonging to the same T-level have suitably high similarities combined with similar functions, the proteins are assumed to be evolutionarily related and put into the same homologous superfamily. Analysis of the structural families generated by CATH reveals the prominent features of protein structure space. We find that nearly a third of the homologous superfamilies (H-levels) belong to ten major T-levels, which we call superfolds, and furthermore that nearly two-thirds of these H-levels cluster into nine simple architectures. A database of well-characterised protein structure families, such as CATH, will facilitate the assignment of structure-function/evolution relationships to both known and newly determined protein structures.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                PLoS Biol
                PLoS Biology
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                August 2010
                August 2010
                10 August 2010
                : 8
                : 8
                [1 ]Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America
                [2 ]Graduate Program in Biological and Medical Informatics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America
                [3 ]Mass Spectrometry Facility, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America
                University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
                Author notes

                The author(s) have made the following declarations about their contributions: Conceived and designed the experiments: DCD CK. Performed the experiments: DCD JCT. Analyzed the data: DCD NO MPC. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: JCT ALB. Wrote the paper: DCD CK.

                David et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                : 16 February 2010
                : 2 July 2010
                Page count
                Pages: 23
                Research Article
                Biochemistry/Protein Folding
                Cell Biology/Chemical Biology of the Cell
                Neurological Disorders/Alzheimer Disease

                Life sciences
                Life sciences


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