Retrotransposons and Genetic Instability in Aging

The degree to which progressive mutation of nuclear DNA causes aging is debated, but here is some work on the mechanisms: "Genetic damage through mutations and genome rearrangements has been hypothesized to contribute to aging. The specific mechanisms responsible for age-induced increases in mutation and chromosome rearrangement frequencies and a potential causative role for DNA damage in aging are under active investigation. Retrotransposons are mobile genetic elements that cause insertion mutations and contribute to genome rearrangements through nonallelic recombination events in humans and other organisms. We have investigated the role of endogenous Ty1 retrotransposons in aging-associated increases in genome instability using the Saccharomyces cerevisiae chronological aging model. We show that age-induced increases in loss of heterozygosity and chromosome loss events are consistently diminished by mutations or treatments that reduce Ty1 retrotransposition. Ty1 mobility is elevated in very old yeast populations, and new retromobility events are often associated with chromosome rearrangements. These results reveal a correlation between retrotransposition and genome instability during yeast aging. Retrotransposition may contribute to genetic damage during aging in diverse organisms and provides a useful tool for studying whether genetic damage is a causative factor for aging."

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22021441

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