A study in mice published today in eLife suggests that studying protein changes in the kidney as we age, as well as gene transcription into proteins, can help provide a complete picture of the age-related processes that occur in these organs.
Many changes occur in the body as a result of aging, including changes in vital organs such as the kidney, which function less efficiently later in life. The majority of studies on age-related changes in the kidney have focused on gene transcription – the process by which a segment of DNA is copied into RNA. The current study suggests that using this approach in conjunction with studying protein changes provides a better understanding of age-related changes in the kidney and may point to new approaches for treating age-related kidney dysfunction.
“Physiological changes in kidney function during ageing are well documented,” says first author Yuka Takemon, who was a research assistant at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, US, at the time of the study and is now a PhD student at the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Universit “Many previous studies of these physiological changes have focused on gene transcription into proteins by measuring messenger RNA (mRNA), but we wanted to see if we could gain more insights by combining this approach with protein levels in the kidney.”
Takemon and colleagues examined age-related changes in kidney function in 600 genetically diverse mice in their study. Changes in mRNA and proteins were also measured in kidney samples from about one-third of the animals.
They discovered an age-related pattern of changes in both mRNA and proteins in mice, indicating that the animals have an increase in immune cells and inflammation in their kidney, as well as a decrease in mitochondrial function, which produces energy for the cells.
Kidney and Protein synthesis
However, not all of the protein changes corresponded with mRNA changes, implying that some protein changes occur after gene transcription into RNA. This could imply that as people age, their kidneys become less efficient at producing new proteins, or that proteins are broken down more quickly. If further research confirms this, it could imply that therapies or interventions that promote protein building or slow protein breakdown may be beneficial in the treatment of aging-related kidney diseases.
“Our findings suggest that mRNA measurements alone provide an incomplete picture of molecular changes in the kidney caused by ageing,” says senior author Ron Korstanje, Associate Professor at the Jackson Laboratory. “Studying protein changes is also important for understanding these aging-related processes and designing potential new approaches for treating age-related diseases.”
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