Trending With Impact: Worms Reveal Early Event in Neurodegeneration

Researchers examined roundworms to determine the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in progressive neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

From Figure 2. Altered mitochondrial morphology and activity in tauwt-expressing larvae. (truncated)
From Figure 2. Altered mitochondrial morphology and activity in tauwt-expressing larvae. (truncated)

The Trending With Impact series highlights Aging (Aging-US) publications that attract higher visibility among readers around the world online, in the news, and on social media—beyond normal readership levels. Look for future science news about the latest trending publications here, and at Aging-US.com.

Listen to an audio version of this article

Many aging-associated neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, involve the aggregation of abnormal tau in nerve cells (neurons). Normally, tau proteins function to stabilize microtubules in the brain. Tauopathy occurs when tau proteins become misfolded and misshapen (which turns tau into toxic tau). They then continue to proliferate and bind to each other, forming tau oligomers. These tau oligomers are more toxic and have a greater potential to spread tau pathology. Before the tau pathology snowballs into neurodegenerative disorders, the events that lead up to abnormal tau have remained elusive to researchers. 

“While the association between tau levels and energy metabolism is established, it is not clear whether mitochondrial dysfunction is an early pathological feature of high levels of tau or a consequence of its excessive formation of protein aggregates.”

Previous studies have demonstrated an association between tau levels and mitochondrial metabolism, however, determining which one proceeds the other has yet to be fully illuminated. Shedding light on this subject, researchers—from the University of CopenhagenNational and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging—used a Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans; roundworm/nematode) model of tau to examine mitochondrial changes over time. Their paper was chosen as the cover of Aging (Aging-US) Volume 13, Issue 21, published in November of 2021 and entitled, “Alteration of mitochondrial homeostasis is an early event in a C. elegans model of human tauopathy”.  

The Study

“Here, we utilized transgenic nematodes expressing the full length of wild type tau in neuronal cells and monitored mitochondrial morphology alterations over time.”

To investigate the impact of tau on mitochondrial activity, neuronal function and organismal physiology, the researchers selected and cultured an already characterized nematode strain that expresses the full length of wild type human tau protein. They compared wild type nematodes with tau-expressing nematodes (at various ages) over time using a thrashing assay, mitochondrial imaging, worm tracking software, and western blot analysis. Calcium deregulation was also examined to determine whether or not it is implicated in the impairment of mitochondrial activity in the tau-expressing nematodes. They found that chelating calcium led to restored mitochondrial activity and suggested a link between mitochondrial damage, calcium homeostasis and neuronal impairment in this nematode model.

Figure 2. Altered mitochondrial morphology and activity in tauwt-expressing larvae.
Figure 2. Altered mitochondrial morphology and activity in tauwt-expressing larvae.

Conclusion

“Our findings suggest that defective mitochondrial function is an early pathogenic event of tauopathies, taking place before tau aggregation and undermining neuronal homeostasis and organismal fitness.”

The researchers were forthcoming about limitations in their study, given the differences between human and nematode biology and pathology. Nevertheless, they found evidence that, in this nematode tauopathy model, neurotoxicity depends on protein alterations and mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial dysfunction takes place before high levels of tau are detected. Tau mutations may also modulate calcium homeostasis by influencing the main cellular storage sites—the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria.

“Investigating the tight interplay between tau oligomers and energy metabolism will enlighten new avenues for therapeutic strategies to slow or halt the progression of dementia-related diseases such as AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”

Click here to read the full priority research paper published by Aging (Aging-US).

WATCH: AGING VIDEOS ON LABTUBE

Aging (Aging-US) is an open-access journal that publishes research papers monthly in all fields of aging research and other topics. These papers are available to read at no cost to readers on Aging-us.com. Open-access journals offer information that has the potential to benefit our societies from the inside out and may be shared with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and other researchers, far and wide.

For media inquiries, please contact media@impactjournals.com.

Trending With Impact: Green Tea Enhances Fitness and Lifespan in Worms

The mechanisms and pathways involved in the health and aging benefits conveyed by green tea were investigated in C. elegans.

Green tea leaves

The Trending With Impact series highlights Aging (Aging-US) publications that attract higher visibility among readers around the world online, in the news, and on social media—beyond normal readership levels. Look for future science news about the latest trending publications here, and at Aging-US.com.

Listen to an audio version of this article

Boiled or iced with water or milk, blended in smoothies, condensed into shots or even baked into pastries—humans are infatuated with green tea. Today, green tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. Molecules found in this plant, named catechins, are known to have numerous evidence-based health benefits, including weight loss and age delaying properties. However, the mechanism by which these effects take place have yet to be fully elucidated.

“The popularity of green tea makes it crucial to study its impact on health and aging.”

Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University JenaHuazhong Agricultural UniversityETH Zurich, and the Medical University of Graz investigated green tea catechins and their effects in roundworms, known as Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), and isolated rodent mitochondria. Their trending paper was published in October of 2021 by Aging (Aging-US), and entitled, “Green tea catechins EGCG and ECG enhance the fitness and lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans by complex I inhibition.”

“We have designed the current study to investigate the impact and to unveil the target of the most abundant green tea catechins, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epicatechin gallate (ECG).”

The Study

In this study, the researchers focused on testing two of the most common green tea catechins, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epicatechin gallate (ECG), in isolated mitochondria from murine liver and C. elegans. C. elegans are approximately one millimeter long nematodes, or roundworms, and have been used in a variety of biomedical studies. The reason C. elegans were chosen for this study is likely due to the fact that many genes in C. elegans have functional counterparts in humans. (C. elegans also have the ability to “smell” cancer.)

Over the course of 24 hours or seven days, C. elegans and rodent mitochondria were treated with 2.5 μM of EGCG and/or ECG compounds. To analyze the green tea catechins’ effects on cellular metabolism, reactive oxygen species (ROS) homeostasis, stress resistance, physical exercise capacity, health- and lifespan, and on the underlying signaling pathways, the researchers conducted lifespan analyses, locomotion assay, paraquat stress resistance assay, basal oxygen consumption rate, ROS quantification, glucose oxidation assay, ATP quantification, activity assays for catalase and superoxide dismutase, fat content analysis, quantification of complex I activity in mitochondria, quantification of oxygen consumption rate in mitochondria, and statistical analyses.

“We conclude that applying the green tea catechins EGCG and ECG at a low dose extends the lifespan of C. elegans via inducing a mitohormetic response.”

They found that the catechins hindered mitochondrial respiration in C. elegans after 6–12 hours, the activity of complex I in isolated rodent mitochondria and temporarily increased ROS levels. Then, after 24 hours and through adaptive responses, catechins reduced fat content, enhanced ROS defense and, in the long term, improved healthspan in C. elegans.

Conclusion

Mechanisms and pathways observed to be involved in this process of C. elegans fitness and lifespan extension by green tea were further described in the paper. The researchers note that additional studies will be required to determine the best timing and dosage for administering catechins. They also acknowledge that the low bioavailability of green tea catechins may limit the lifespan extending effects of green tea in humans, despite the promising effects demonstrated in C. elegans.

“Despite the promising results obtained in animal experiments, the low bioavailability of EGCG [7] still raises the question of whether green tea catechins can reliably provoke beneficial effects in humans. Consequently, additional efforts might be needed to identify complex I inhibitors with increased bioavailability.”

Click here to read the full priority research paper published by Aging (Aging-US).

WATCH: AGING VIDEOS ON LABTUBE

Aging (Aging-US) is an open-access journal that publishes research papers monthly in all fields of aging research and other topics. These papers are available to read at no cost to readers on Aging-us.com. Open-access journals offer information that has the potential to benefit our societies from the inside out and may be shared with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and other researchers, far and wide.

For media inquiries, please contact media@impactjournals.com.

  • Follow Us