A paper published online in Molecular Cell has reported the results of a study that blocked a certain protein from being expressed in mice. The protein AUF1 is critical for binding and degrading mRNA specific for pro-inflammatory molecules. In this study, the mice lack AUF1, and (not surprisingly) they have a dampened inflammatory response. A bit surprising is the news that, even in a germ-free environment, the mice age very quickly. After further study, authors concluded that the anti-inflammatory AUF1 not only binds and degrades mRNA for pro-inflammatory molecules, but it also acts as a transcription factor responsible for triggering the production of telomerase – a very strange double-role for this type of molecule. Without telomerase, the chromosomes of the mice become degraded very quickly and the mice age prematurely.
Here is the popular science write-up (though take the “shocked” tone of the article with a grain of salt – we’ve suspected that inflammation and aging were connected for years – it is my understanding that it’s the dual role of AUF1 that is surprising and cool): http://the-scientist.com/2012/05/24/the-aging-and-inflammation-link/
Here’s a link to the primary research article: http://www.cell.com/molecular-cell/abstract/S1097-2765%2812%2900341-3