Date Published: June 27, 2017
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Author(s): Ádám Sturm, András Perczel, Zoltán Ivics, Tibor Vellai.
Despite its medical, social, and economic significance, understanding what primarily causes aging, that is, the mechanisms of the aging process, remains a fundamental and fascinating problem in biology. Accumulating evidence indicates that a small RNA‐based gene regulatory machinery, the Piwi‐piRNA pathway, represents a shared feature of nonaging (potentially immortal) biological systems, including the germline, somatic cancer stem cells, and certain ‘lower’ eukaryotic organisms like the planarian flatworm and freshwater hydra. The pathway primarily functions to repress the activity of mobile genetic elements, also called transposable elements (TEs) or ‘jumping genes’, which are capable of moving from one genomic locus to another, thereby causing insertional mutations. TEs become increasingly active and multiply in the genomes of somatic cells as the organism ages. These characteristics of TEs highlight their decisive mutagenic role in the progressive disintegration of genetic information, a molecular hallmark associated with aging. Hence, TE‐mediated genomic instability may substantially contribute to the aging process.
This work was supported by the grants OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund) NK78012 and MEDinPROT Protein Science Research Synergy Program (provided by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences).
The authors declare no conflict of interest.