One approach to mimic the effects of calorie restriction is to replace an important molecular component of the diet with some other substance that cannot be processed in the necessary ways by an individual's metabolism. This is easier to achieve in lower animals, and here is an example of the way in which researchers use this and other simple ways to extend life in order to narrow down the search for the genes and mechanisms by which metabolism determines longevity:
Glucose restriction mimicked by feeding the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans with 2-deoxy-D-glucose (DOG) - a glucose molecule that lacks the ability to undergo glycolysis - has been found to increase the life span of the nematodes considerably.
To facilitate understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind this life extension, we analyzed transcriptomes of DOG-treated and untreated roundworms obtained by RNA-seq at different ages. We found that, depending on age, DOG changes the magnitude of the expression values of about 2 to 24 percent of the genes significantly, although our results reveal that the gross changes introduced by DOG are small compared to the age-induced changes. We found that 27 genes are constantly either up- or down-regulated by DOG over the whole life span, among them several members of the cytochrome P450 family.
The monotonic change with age of the temporal expression patterns of the genes was investigated, leading to the result that 21 genes reverse their monotonic behaviour under impaired glycolysis. Put simply, the DOG-treatment reduces the gross transcriptional activity but increases the interconnectedness of gene expression. However, a detailed analysis of network parameters discloses that the introduced changes differ remarkably between individual signalling pathways. We found a reorganization of the hubs of the mTOR pathway when standard diet is replaced by DOG feeding.
By constructing correlation based difference networks, we identified those signalling pathways that are most vigorously changed by impaired glycolysis. Taken together, we have found a number of genes and pathways that are potentially involved in the DOG-driven extension of life span of C. elegans. Furthermore, our results demonstrate how the network structure of ageing-relevant signalling pathways is reorganised under impaired glycolysis.