Genes Are Read Faster and More Sloppily in Old Age

Fast but sloppy, that’s how the transcription of genes changes with age. Six research groups discovered a new molecular mechanism that contributes to aging by studying the transcription process in five different model organisms and in a wide variety of tissues.

Aging impairs a wide range of cellular processes. Among these processes, the reading of genes known as transcription is particularly important, because it is a main regulator of protein levels.

Although experts knew that gene expression changes with age, it was unclear whether the accuracy of the transcription process itself changes with age and whether such a change would have relevant consequences for organisms.

This is exactly what the researchers have now been able to demonstrate,the 26 scientists investigated genome-wide, age-related changes in transcription processes in nematodes, fruit flies, mice, rats and humans, including diverse tissues. And they discovered that the average speed at which the transcript grows through the attachment of RNA building blocks, the nucleotides, increased with age in all five species.

Professor Beyer says: “Our results uncover fundamental molecular mechanisms underlying animal aging and interventions to extend lifespan, providing clues as to how we might contribute to healthy aging in the future. The fact that interventions, such as a reduced calorie intake, also have a positive effect on a healthy aging process on the molecular level via improving the quality of gene transcription is something which we have now been able to prove quite clearly with our study.”


Cédric Debès, Antonios Papadakis, Sebastian Grönke, Özlem Karalay, Luke S. Tain, Athanasia Mizi, Shuhei Nakamura, Oliver Hahn, Carina Weigelt, Natasa Josipovic, Anne Zirkel, Isabell Brusius, Konstantinos Sofiadis, Mantha Lamprousi, Yu-Xuan Lu, Wenming Huang, Reza Esmaillie, Torsten Kubacki, Martin R. Späth, Bernhard Schermer, Thomas Benzing, Roman-Ulrich Müller, Adam Antebi, Linda Partridge, Argyris Papantonis, Andreas Beyer. Ageing-associated changes in transcriptional elongation influence longevity. Nature, 2023; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-05922-y

University of Cologne. “Genes are read faster and more sloppily in old age.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2023. <>.

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Photo by Sangharsh Lohakare