Retrotransposons are mobile DNA elements present throughout eukaryotic genomes that can cause mutations and genome rearrangements when they replicate through reverse transcription. Increased expression and/or mobility of retrotransposons has been correlated with aging in yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, and mammals. The many copies of retrotransposons in humans and various model organisms complicate further pursuit of this relationship. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae Ty1 retrotransposon was introduced into a strain of Saccharomyces paradoxus that completely lacks retrotransposons to compare chronological lifespans of yeast strains with zero, low, or high Ty1 copy number. Yeast chronological lifespan reflects the progressive loss of cell viability in a non-dividing state. Chronological lifespans for the strains were not different in rich medium, but were extended in high Ty1 copy number strains in synthetic medium and in rich medium containing a low dose of hydroxyurea, an agent that depletes deoxynucleoside triphosphates. Lifespan extension was not strongly correlated with Ty1 mobility or mutation rates for a representative gene. Buffering deoxynucleoside triphosphate levels with threonine supplementation did not substantially affect this lifespan extension, and no substantial differences in cell cycle arrest in the non-dividing cells were observed. Lifespan extension was correlated with reduced reactive oxygen species during early stationary phase in high Ty1 copy strains, and antioxidant treatment allowed the zero Ty1 copy strain to live as long as high Ty1 copy number strains in rich medium with hydroxyurea. This exceptional yeast system has identified an unexpected longevity-promoting role for retrotransposons that may yield novel insights into mechanisms regulating lifespan.
- Received March 20, 2014.
- Accepted July 31, 2014.
- Copyright © 2014, The Genetics Society of America