The Rollins Laboratory wants to enable people to enjoy longer, healthier lives. A recent revolution in aging research has led to the discovery that the activity of single genes can control the rate at which we age. We are building on this revolution by studying how life extending interventions, like dietary restriction, regulate gene expression to help protect our cells and tissues from declining with age. We use the roundworm C. elegans as a model organism to study human aging as they share many of the genes as us and because their short lifespan allows us to rapidly test for interventions that extend longevity.
Gene expression is regulated on multiple levels: by transcription rates of DNA into mRNA copies, by recruitment of mRNA to the ribosome to be translated into proteins, and by the degradation rates of the mRNA or protein products. We have previously shown that C. elegans treated with dietary restriction causes many longevity genes to be regulated exclusively on the level of translation. Protein translation is made possible the ribosome, an intricate molecular machine comprised of multiple proteins. Our current work explores how regulation of longevity genes occurs under dietary restriction by investigating how the protein composition of the ribosome determines which mRNAs are selected for translation and which are not.