April 29, 2021

A compound to counteract aging?

A compound that increases lifespan in yeast is offering clues to pharmacological approaches that might slow the aging process and improve health.

Aging is a primary risk factor for many chronic diseases. Strategies to slow the aging process and improve health have focused on limiting nutrients, but fasting is difficult. 

Jason MacGurn, PhD, and colleagues including Robert Dickson, PhD, at the University of Kentucky, have explored a pharmacological approach to increase longevity. Dickson’s team previously found that the compound myriocin, which inhibits the synthesis of sphingolipids (components of the cell membrane), increases lifespan in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 

Now, the investigators have discovered that myriocin lowers the pools of 17 amino acids. To explore the molecular basis for this effect, they studied Mup1, the transporter for the amino acid methionine, and showed that it was inactive in drug-treated cells. 

The findings, reported in the journal Aging, suggest that myriocin affects the function of amino acid transporters to lower amino acid availability and promote longevity. Myriocin-like compounds could offer a pharmacological approach to reduce the effects of aging-related diseases in humans.

This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (AG053562).