An enzyme in Caenorhabditis elegans affects the rate at which the dainty worms age, by modulating the cellular response to oxidative stress. In today's Nature, Naoaki Ishii and his colleagues at the Tokai University School of Medicine, Japan, report that the mev-1 gene encodes a subunit of an enzyme involved in electron transport in mitochondria, the power-houses of cells. The mitochondrial electron transport pathway is central to how cells move energy around, but it is sensitive to damage from oxidizing agents. This damage leads to the symptoms we associate with cellular aging. The researchers propose that mev-1 governs the rate of ageing by modulating the cellular response to oxidative stress. This finding has parallels in human medicine: some myopathies, neurodegenerative diseases and premature aging syndromes may be related to disturbances in the way cells age in response to oxidative damage.—June Kinoshita
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- Ishii N, Fujii M, Hartman PS, Tsuda M, Yasuda K, Senoo-Matsuda N, Yanase S, Ayusawa D, Suzuki K. A mutation in succinate dehydrogenase cytochrome b causes oxidative stress and ageing in nematodes. Nature. 1998 Aug 13;394(6694):694-7. PubMed.