Uncharacterized yeast gene YBR238C, an effector of TORC1 signaling in a mitochondrial feedback loop, accelerates cellular aging via HAP4 - and RMD9 -dependent mechanisms

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    This valuable study identifies an uncharacterized yeast gene regulating chronological lifespan in a mitochondrial-dependent pathway. The approach to identify and characterise this new gene is compelling, but the evidence is incomplete in supporting the major conclusions. With a stronger focus on the relevance of replicative in addition to chronological lifespan, and stronger data linking to mitochondrial function, this paper would be interesting to the yeast biologists working in metabolism and aging.

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Uncovering the regulators of cellular aging will unravel the complexity of aging biology and identify potential therapeutic interventions to delay the onset and progress of chronic, aging-related diseases. In this work, we systematically compared gene sets involved in regulating the lifespan of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a powerful model organism to study the cellular aging of humans) and those with expression changes under rapamycin treatment. Among the functionally uncharacterized genes in the overlap set, YBR238C stood out as the only one downregulated by rapamycin and with an increased chronological and replicative lifespan upon deletion. We show that YBR238C and its paralogue RMD9 oppositely affect mitochondria and aging. YBR238C deletion increases the cellular lifespan by enhancing mitochondrial function. Its overexpression accelerates cellular aging via mitochondrial dysfunction. We find that the phenotypic effect of YBR238C is largely explained by HAP4 – and RMD9 -dependent mechanisms. Further, we find that genetic or chemical-based induction of mitochondrial dysfunction increases TORC1 (Target of Rapamycin Complex 1) activity that, subsequently, accelerates cellular aging. Notably, TORC1 inhibition by rapamycin (or deletion of YBR238C ) improves the shortened lifespan under these mitochondrial dysfunction conditions in yeast and human cells. The growth of mutant cells (a proxy of TORC1 activity) with enhanced mitochondrial function is sensitive to rapamycin whereas the growth of defective mitochondrial mutants is largely resistant to rapamycin compared to wild type. Our findings demonstrate a feedback loop between TORC1 and mitochondria (the TO RC1- MI tochondria- TO RC1 (TOMITO) signaling process) that regulates cellular aging processes. Hereby, YBR238C is an effector of TORC1 modulating mitochondrial function.

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  1. eLife assessment

    This valuable study identifies an uncharacterized yeast gene regulating chronological lifespan in a mitochondrial-dependent pathway. The approach to identify and characterise this new gene is compelling, but the evidence is incomplete in supporting the major conclusions. With a stronger focus on the relevance of replicative in addition to chronological lifespan, and stronger data linking to mitochondrial function, this paper would be interesting to the yeast biologists working in metabolism and aging.

  2. Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

    This fascinating paper by M. Alfatah et al. describes work to uncover novel genes affecting lifespan in the budding yeast S. cerevisiae, eventually identifying and further characterizing a gene, YBR238C, now named AAG1 by the authors.
    The authors began by considering published gene sets pulled from the Saccharomyces genome database that described increases or decreases in either chronological lifespan or replicative lifespan in yeast. They also began with gene sets known to be downregulated upon treatment with the lifespan-extending TOR inhibitor rapamycin.

    YBR283C was unique in being largely uncharacterized, downregulated upon rapamycin treatment, and linked to both increased replicative lifespan and increased chronological lifespan upon deletion.

    The authors show that YBR283C may act to negatively regulate mitochondrial function, in ways that are both dependent on and independent of the stress-responsive transcription factor Hap4, largely by looking at relative expression levels of relevant mitochondrial genes.

    In a hard-to-fully interpret but well-documented series of experiments the authors note that the two paralogues YBR283C and RMD9 (which have ~66% similarity) (a) have opposite effects when acting alone, and (b) appear to interact in that some phenotypes of ybr283c are dependent on RMD9.

    A particularly interesting finding in light of the current literature and of the authors' strategy in identifying YBR283C is that changes in electron transport chain genes upon rapamycin treatment appear to be affected via YBR283C.

    Based on a series of experiments the authors move to conclude the existence of "a feedback loop between TORC1 and mitochondria (the TORC1-Mitochondria-TORC1 (TOMITO) signaling process) that regulates cellular aging processes."

    Overall, this study describes a great deal of new data from a large number of experiments, that shed light on the potential specific roles of YBR238C and its paralog RMD9 in aging in yeast, and also underscore the potential of an approach looking for "dark matter" such as uncharacterized genes when seining the increasing deluge of published datasets for new hypotheses to test. This work when revised will become a valuable addition to the field.

    A paralog of YBR283C, RMD9, also exists in the yeast genome. While the authors indicate that part of their interest in YBR283C lies in its uncharacterized nature, its paralogue, RMD9, is not uncharacterized but is named due to its phenotype of Required for Meiotic nuclear Division, which is not mentioned or discussed anywhere in the manuscript currently.

    In the context of the current work, in addition to the cited Hillen, H.S et al. and Nouet C. et al, the authors might be very interested in the 2007 Genetics paper "Translation initiation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondria: functional interactions among mitochondrial ribosomal protein Rsm28p, initiation factor 2, methionyl-tRNA-formyltransferase and novel protein Rmd9p" (PMID: 17194786), which does not appear to be cited or discussed in the current version of the manuscript.

  3. Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

    The effectors of cellular aging in yeast have not been fully elucidated. To address this, the authors curated gene expression studies to link genes influenced by rapamycin - a well-known mediator of longevity across model systems - to genes known to affect chronological and replicative lifespan (RLS) in yeast. Through their analyses, they find one gene, ybr238c, whose deletion increases both CLS and RLS upon deletion and that is downregulated by rapamycin. Curiously, despite these selection criteria, the authors only use CLS as a proxy for cellular aging throughout their study and do not explore the effects of ybr238c deletion on RLS. This does not diminish their conclusions, but given the importance of this phenotype in their selection criteria, it is surprising that the authors did not choose to test both types of aging throughout their study.

    Nonetheless, the authors demonstrate that deletion of ybr238c increases CLS across multiple yeast strains and through multiple assays. The authors also test the effects of YBR238C overexpression on lifespan and find the opposite effect, with overexpression yeast showing decreased survival relative to wild-type cells, consistent with "accelerated aging" as the authors propose. The authors also note that ybr238c has a paralog, rmd9, whose deletion decreases CLS and seems to be epistatic to ybr238c, as a double ybr238c/rmd9 mutant has decreased CLS relative to a wild-type strain.

    Collectively, the data presented by the authors convincingly demonstrate that ybr238c influences lifespan in a manner that is distinct from (and likely opposite to) rmd9. However, the authors then link the increased CLS in Δybr238c yeast to mitochondrial function using only a handful of assays that do not directly test mitochondrial function. These include total cellular ATP levels, levels of reactive oxygen species, and the transcript levels of select nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes. Yeast is well established to generate ATP through non-mitochondrial pathways such as glycolysis in fermentive conditions. While it is possible that the ATP levels assayed in the manuscript were tested in stationary phase, which would more likely reflect "mitochondrial function," the methods nor the figure legends contain these details, which are critical for the interpretation of these data. Similarly, ROS can be generated through non-mitochondrial pathways, and the transcription of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes is an indirect measure of mitochondrial function at best. Thus, the authors' proposed connection of ybr238c to mitochondrial function is correlative and should be substantiated with assays that more closely align with organellar function, such as respirometry or assaying the activity of oxidiative phosphorylation complexes. Finally, the authors attempt to tie the phenotypes of mitochondrial dysfunction caused by the deletion of ybr238c to TORC1 signaling, as the gene is influenced by rapamycin. However, the presentation of the data, such as reporting ATP levels as relative percentages or failing to perform appropriate statistical comparisons between conditions in which the authors derive conclusions, renders the data difficult to interpret. As such, this manuscript establishes that ybr238c is rapamycin responsive and influences CLS, but its influence on mitochondrial activity and ties to TORC1 signaling remain speculative.

  4. Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

    The study by Alfatah et al. presented a role for YBR238C in mediating lifespan through improved mitochondrial function in a TOR1-dependent metabolic pathway. The authors used a dataset comparison approach to identify genes positively modulating yeast chronological (CLS) and Replicative (RLS) lifespan when deleted, and their expression is reduced under Rapamycin treatment condition. This approach revealed an unknown, mitochondria-localized yeast gene YBR238C, and through mechanistic studies, they identified its paralogous gene RMD9 regulating lifespan in an antagonistic effect.

    Findings have valuable implications for understanding the YBR238C-mediated, mitochondrial-dependent yeast lifespan regulation, and the interplay between two paralogous genes in the regulation of mitochondrial function represents an inserting case for gene evolution.

    Overall, the implication/findings of this study are restricted only to the yeast model since these two genes do not have any homology in higher eukaryotes. The primary methods must be carefully designed by considering two different metabolic states: respiration-associated with CLS and fermentation-associated with RLS in a single comparative approach. Yeast CLS and RLS are two completely different processes. It is already known that most gene-regulating CLS is not associated with RLS or vice versa. The method section is poorly written and missing important information. The experimental approaches are poorly designed, and variability across the datasets (e.g., media condition "YPD," "SC" etc.) and their experimental conditions are not well described/considered; thus, presented data are not conclusive, which decreases the overall rigor of the study.