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Ngian, Z.K., Lin, W.Q., Ong, C.T. (2021). NELF-A controls Drosophila healthspan by regulating heat-shock protein-mediated cellular protection and heterochromatin maintenance.  Aging Cell 20(5): e13348.
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Research paper

NELF-mediated pausing of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) constitutes a crucial step in transcription regulation. However, it remains unclear how control release of RNAPII pausing can affect the epigenome and regulate important aspects of animal physiology like aging. We found that NELF-A dosage regulates Drosophila healthspan: Halving NELF-A level in the heterozygous mutants or via neuronal-specific RNAi depletion improves their locomotor activity, stress resistance, and lifespan significantly. Conversely, NELF-A overexpression shortens fly lifespan drastically. Mechanistically, lowering NELF-A level facilitates the release of paused RNAPII for productive transcription of the heat-shock protein (Hsp) genes. The elevated HSPs expression in turn attenuates the accumulation of insoluble protein aggregates, reactive oxidative species, DNA damage and systemic inflammation in the brains of aging NELF-A depleted flies as compared to their control siblings. This pro-longevity effect is unique to NELF-A due to its higher expression level and more efficient pausing of RNAPII than other NELF subunits. Importantly, enhanced resistance to oxidative stress in NELF-A heterozygous mutants is highly conserved such that knocking down its level in human SH-SY5Y cells attenuates hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage and apoptosis. Depleting NELF-A reconfigures the epigenome through the maintenance of H3K9me2-enriched heterochromatin during aging, leading to the repression of specific retrotransposons like Gypsy-1 in the brains of NELF-A mutants. Taken together, we showed that the dosage of neuronal NELF-A affects multiple aspects of aging in Drosophila by regulating transcription of Hsp genes in the brains, suggesting that targeting transcription elongation might be a viable therapeutic strategy against age-onset diseases like neurodegeneration.

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PubMed Central ID
PMC8135010 (PMC) (EuropePMC)
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    Publication Type
    Aging Cell
    Aging Cell
    Publication Year
    1474-9718 1474-9728
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    Alleles (11)
    Genes (5)
    Cell Lines (1)
    Natural transposons (1)
    Insertions (3)
    Experimental Tools (2)
    Transgenic Constructs (8)