“Only the Stressed Die Young”* Molecular Switch in Flies Is Decisive for Long Life and Stress Resilience; Transcription Factor Must Be Tightly Controlled As Too Little Leads to Longer Life, But Reduced Stress Resistance; Too Much Leads to Early Aging

The survival and fitness of multi-cellular organisms have been tightly associated with their capacity to renew their tissues. This is particularly important for tissues that are permanently exposed to and challenged by the external environment, such as the epithelium, which lines our digestive tract. Researchers led by Professor Dr. Mirka Uhlirova from CECAD (Cluster of Excellence for Aging Research at the University of Cologne) collaborated with the laboratory of Dr. Tony Southall from Imperial College London to identify the transcription factor Ets21c as a vital regulator of the regenerative program in the adult intestine of the fruit fly Drosophila. Moreover, their work highlighted the existence of trade-off mechanisms between stress resilience and longevity. The results were published online on June 4, 2019 in Cell Reports. The open-access article is titled “Ets21c Governs Tissue Renewal, Stress Tolerance, and Aging in the Drosophila Intestine.” While primarily involved in nutrient absorption and digestion, the intestinal epithelium also serves as a selective barrier that restricts the passage of pathogens and toxic substances. The renewal of the intestine is accomplished by stem cells which proliferate and differentiate to maintain tissue integrity and it functions throughout an organism's lifetime. In contrast, stem cell malfunctions have been linked to tissue degeneration or cancer development. The new research contributes to a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of the regenerative processes under favorable as well as stress conditions.
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