Scientists would like to know what accounts for such wide disparity in lifespan. Knowing exactly why certain species longer may aid in developing strategies to arrest the aging process. To this end, a research group developed a method for identifying proteins that are associated with longevity across species.
They performed comparative genome-wide analysis in more than 30 species of mammals, and attempted to identify which proteins exhibited evidence of accelerated evolution in the longer lives species.
Out of over 15,000 proteins considered, the researchers identified three major protein groups that were associated with longevity: DNA repair, cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and protein recycling.
The researchers conclude:
In this work, we present a novel approach to study the evolution of lifespans in mammalian species by looking for selection specificity in lineages where longevity is thought to have considerably increased. We identify several candidate proteins, including COL3A1, DDB1, and CAPNS1, that are candidates for further studies. Among the significant genes and categories, some may be related to selection on life history traits that co-evolve with longevity while others may be related to the evo- lution of longevity, including proteins involved in DNA damage response and repair. Better protein degradation and turnover mechanisms via the optimization of proteins involved in the proteasome–ubiquitin system might also have contributed to the evolution of longevity. To our knowledge, the identification of these categories is the first evidence of selection associated with the evolution of longevity detected on a whole-genome level. As more genomes are sequenced, analyses employing this and similar approaches will become more powerful and our work is only one more step into unrav- eling the adaptive genetic changes involved in the evo- lution of long lifespans.