Scientists have long known that a restricted diet extends life. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified two enzymes that provide a new molecular explanation for how eating less leads to living longer.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Andrew Dillin and colleagues identified two proteins, WWP-1 and UBC-18, that link dietary restriction to longevity in roundworms.
Dillin says when researchers removed the two enzymes from the test animals, the benefits of a restricted diet disappeared.
And when those enzymes were enhanced, longevity and disease resistance increased.
The scientists say understanding how these molecules influence longevity could have implications for developing new treatments for age-related diseases.
"The only other known factor regulating longevity in response to diet restriction operates at the very end of the signaling cascade," said Howard Hughes Medical Investigator and senior author Andrew Dillin, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory.
"These two enzymes are further up the ladder, bringing us closer to the receptor that receives the signal for throwing the switch to promote a healthy lifespan," Dillin added.
The study has been published in the June 24, 2009, advance online edition of the journal Nature.