Newly Discovered Mitochondrial Proteins Could Play A Role In Aging

Credit: NICHD/U. Manor

A group of 6 tiny proteins from mitochondria may play a role in the aging process

Previous research has revealed 2 proteins called humanin and MOTS-c, uniquely encoded in the mitochondrial genome. Both appear to be protective; displaying a range of properties from combating oxidative stress, improving insulin resistance and protecting neurons. Mitochondria have separate genomes which help them encode specific essential proteins, although many are also encoded by the cell's own genome in a symbiotic relationship. Searching within the mitochondrial genome in the region that encodes for humanin, researchers stumbled across 6 new proteins also produced by mitochondria. They called these small humanin-like peptides, or SHLPs. 

What do SHLPs do?

Analysing these proteins further in mice, they found they were distributed quite differently throughout the body which suggests they can perform different functions. One particular protein, SHLP-2, was found to have similar neuroprotective and anti-diabetic effects - and even promoting cancer cell death. 

"Together with the previously identified mitochondrial peptides, the newly recognized SHLP family expands the understanding of the mitochondria as an intracellular signaling organelle that communicates with the rest of the body to regulate metabolism and cell fate. The findings are an important advance that will be ripe for rapid translation into drug development for diseases of aging"

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