Light-activated proton pumps generate cellular energy, extend lifespan

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New research in the journal Nature Aging It takes a page from the field of renewable energy and demonstrates that genetically modified mitochondria can convert light energy into chemical energy that cells can use, ultimately extending the lifespan of roundworm C. elegans. While the existence of cells charged by sunlight in humans is more science fiction than science, the findings shed light on important mechanisms in the aging process.

D., associate professor of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine and Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and senior author of the study. “We know that mitochondrial dysfunction is a result of aging,” said Andrew Wojtovich.

“This study found that simply boosting metabolism using light-powered mitochondria gives lab worms longer, healthier lives. These findings and new research tools allow us to further study mitochondria and find new ways to treat age-related diseases and healthier age-related diseases.” will provide.”

Mitochondria are organelles found in most cells in the body. Mitochondria, often called cellular power plants, use glucose to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the compound that provides energy for essential functions in the cell such as muscle contraction and electrical impulses that help nerve cells communicate with each other.

ATP production is the result of a series of reactions made possible by the exchange of protons across a membrane that separates the different compartments in the mitochondria, ultimately creating a process called the membrane potential. Membrane potential decreases with age and has been shown to potentially play a role in a number of age-related diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders.

The new research involved C. elegans, a microscopic roundworm like the fruit fly Drosophila, and has long been a research tool used by scientists to understand fundamental biological principles that apply in many cases to the animal kingdom.

To perform the experiments, a team of researchers from the USA and Germany adapted an existing research tool that allowed them to manipulate activity in mitochondria. The technique, called optogenetics, has traditionally been used to target and activate specific neurons, allowing researchers to more precisely study patterns of brain activity.

The researchers genetically engineered the C. elegans mitochondria to contain a light-activated proton pump from a fungus; It’s a feat the team first described in a 2020 article in the magazine. EMBO Reports.

In the new study, when exposed to light, proton pumps would move charged ions across the membrane, using the energy from light to charge the mitochondria. This process, which the researchers call mitochondria-ON (mtON), increased membrane potential and ATP production, increasing the roundworm’s lifespan by 30-40%.

Brandon Berry, Ph.D., who earned his PhD in physiology from the University of Rochester and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, is the first author of both studies. “Mitochondria are similar to industrial power plants in that they burn a carbon source, primarily glucose, to produce useful energy for the cell,” said Berry.

“What we’re doing is essentially connecting a solar panel to the existing power plant infrastructure. In this example, the solar panel is the optogenetic tool mtON. The normal mitochondrial machine can use light energy to provide ATP in addition to its normal combustion path.”

The study is important because it provides researchers with more information about the complex biological roles mitochondria play in the human body, something the scientific community is only beginning to understand. The work also creates a new method for manipulating and studying mitochondria in a living cell environment. This could serve as an important platform for studying mitochondria and identifying ways to interfere with and support function.

“We need to better understand how mitochondria actually behave in an animal,” said Berry. “First, in worms like the current study, but then in human cells in culture and rodents. In this way, future research will be well informed to target the most likely players in human disease and aging.”

More information:
Optogenetic rejuvenation of mitochondrial membrane potential prolongs C. elegans lifespan, Nature Aging (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s43587-022-00340-7. www.nature.com/articles/s43587-022-00340-7

Provided by the University of Rochester Medical Center

Quotation: Solar-powered cells: Light-activated proton pumps generate cellular energy, extending lifespan (2022, 30 Dec), 31 Dec 2022 at https://phys.org/news/2022-12-solar-powered-cells-light- receipt. active-proton-generate.html

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