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Proteostasis collapse is a driver of cell aging and death.

  • Author(s): Santra, Mantu
  • Dill, Ken A
  • de Graff, Adam MR
  • et al.
Abstract

What molecular processes drive cell aging and death? Here, we model how proteostasis-i.e., the folding, chaperoning, and maintenance of protein function-collapses with age from slowed translation and cumulative oxidative damage. Irreparably damaged proteins accumulate with age, increasingly distracting the chaperones from folding the healthy proteins the cell needs. The tipping point to death occurs when replenishing good proteins no longer keeps up with depletion from misfolding, aggregation, and damage. The model agrees with experiments in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans that show the following: Life span shortens nonlinearly with increased temperature or added oxidant concentration, and life span increases in mutants having more chaperones or proteasomes. It predicts observed increases in cellular oxidative damage with age and provides a mechanism for the Gompertz-like rise in mortality observed in humans and other organisms. Overall, the model shows how the instability of proteins sets the rate at which damage accumulates with age and upends a cell's normal proteostasis balance.

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