Study of Fruit Fly MicroRNA Unravels Clues to Aging Process

CAMDEN — Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s are often associated with aging, but the biological link between the two is less certain.  Researchers at Rutgers University–Camden are seeking insight into this connection by studying very small RNA molecules in the common fruit fly.

“As the flies in our experiment age, we’re able to detect specific patterns of microRNAs — which help to regulate genes — when they are bound to specific proteins,” says Ammar Naqvi, a doctoral student in computational and integrative biology at Rutgers–Camden.

Naqvi, a Philadelphia resident, explains that microRNAs are connected to various developmental stages and disease states, and their proper modulation is required for the integrity and maintenance of cells. 

The research is being done under the supervision of Andrey Grigoriev, a professor of biology at Rutgers–Camden, and in collaboration with a research team at the University of Pennsylvania.  Computational and bioinformatics analysis for the project is performed at Rutgers–Camden. 

In flies, microRNAs are “loaded” onto one of two protein complexes known as Ago1 or Ago2, which then guide it to repress gene expression.  The team found that as fruit flies age, more microRNAs accumulate on the Ago2 protein complex, and therefore impact age-associated events in the flies. 

“We were able to connect the two processes,” Naqvi says. “Studies have shown that there is some change in the microRNA population with age, but no one was sure how they were partitioned with the protein complexes.  We observed such partitioning and also an increase in neurodegeneration, which resulted in a shorter lifespan for these flies.”

Grigoriev explains, “Neurodegeneration and aging go hand-in-hand, but we are the first to have shown the details of this change in regulation with aging. This tells us that there are different mechanisms of regulation in different stages of development. Is aging a byproduct of development?  I cannot tell you.  It’s possible that this could be relevant for other diseases.  That’s what we want to find out.”

The study was recently published in a leading journal in the field, Genes and Development.

Naqvi, who is originally from Long Island, New York, received his bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and his master’s degree from George Mason University.  He is the recipient of the prestigious Rutgers Presidential Fellowship, annually awarded to select doctoral students throughout the university to help fund research.

Grigoriev, a Medford resident, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute in Russia. He received his doctoral degree in molecular biology from the Institute of Genetics and Selection of Industrial Microorganisms in Russia.

Rutgers–Camden’s Center for Computational and Integrative Biology combines science and math to better understand how biological systems work.

Ed Moorhouse
856-225-6759

 

Other News Stories

July 26, 2013
Thanks to two grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA), totaling more than $176,000, the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts will continue to serve as a hub of award-winning performances, exhibitions, education programs, and community projects, in the South Jersey region.
July 26, 2013
Alan Tarr, a distinguished professor of political science and the director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies at Rutgers–Camden, has been named the 2013-2014 Ann and Herbert W. Vaughan Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.
July 18, 2013
The role emerging markets play in the global economy is an important one that business scholars and students continue to study.
July 18, 2013
Beginning this fall, Rutgers–Camden will provide institutional support, in the form of editorial and operational assistance, for The Public Historian, the flagship journal in the field of public history.
July 15, 2013
Major League Baseball’s ongoing steroid controversy is threatening the legacy of the sport and the validity of its well-respected history, but what kind of impact is it having behind teams’ closed clubhouse doors?

Pages