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David Group

David Group
David Group

Research Summary

The ultimate goal of our laboratory is to discover mechanisms to promote healthy ageing and alleviate age-related diseases. We aim to understand the molecular basis of ageing by focusing on a pathological adaptation to ageing, namely protein aggregation. We and others have identified several hundred proteins that accumulate in aberrant clumps both inside and outside of cells in ageing organisms in the absence of disease processes.

Mainly, we work with Caenorhabditis elegans, a transparent nematode about 1 mm in length, which is an outstanding model for ageing research. Ageing is easily monitored in this simple organism which undergoes rapid ageing over the course of two weeks. Our research in C. elegans reveals that protein aggregates contribute to the decline in muscle function with age. Therefore, identifying ways to keep proteins in their correct shape will likely promote healthy ageing.

Recently, we developed a C. elegans model to study extracellular protein aggregation. Using this model, we are exploring new ways to maintain the quality of proteins outside the cell. Other important goals of the lab are to understand what makes certain tissues more vulnerable to protein aggregation and how to enhance stress resistance with age. Mechanisms and concepts identified in C. elegans could open up new avenues in the search for therapies to delay disabilities of ageing in humans.

Extracellular aggregates

Protein aggregates (magenta puncta) accumulate between tissues in the head of the worm.

Latest Publications

Open Access
Moli猫re A, Park JYC, Goyala A, Vayndorf EM, Zhang B, Hsiung KC, Jung Y, Kwon S, Statzer C, Meyer D, Nguyen R, Chadwick J, Thompson MA, Schumacher B, Lee SV, Essmann CL, MacArthur MR, Kaeberlein M, David D, Gems D, Ewald CY Signalling

Little is known about the possibility of reversing age-related biological changes when they have already occurred. To explore this, we have characterized the effects of reducing insulin/IGF-1 signaling (IIS) during old age. Reduction of IIS throughout life slows age-related decline in diverse species, most strikingly in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Here we show that even at advanced ages, auxin-induced degradation of DAF-2 in single tissues, including neurons and the intestine, is still able to markedly increase C. elegans lifespan. We describe how reversibility varies among senescent changes. While senescent pathologies that develop in mid-life were not reversed, there was a rejuvenation of the proteostasis network, manifesting as a restoration of the capacity to eliminate otherwise intractable protein aggregates that accumulate with age. Moreover, resistance to several stressors was restored. These results support several new conclusions. (1) Loss of resilience is not solely a consequence of pathologies that develop in earlier life. (2) Restoration of proteostasis and resilience by inhibiting IIS is a plausible cause of the increase in lifespan. And (3), most interestingly, some aspects of the age-related transition from resilience to frailty can be reversed to a certain extent. This raises the possibility that the effect of IIS and related pathways on resilience and frailty during aging in higher animals might possess some degree of reversibility.

+view abstract GeroScience, PMID: 38900346

Open Access
Jung R, Lechler MC, Fernandez-Villegas A, Chung CW, Jones HC, Choi YH, Thompson MA, R枚delsperger C, R枚seler W, Kaminski Schierle GS, Sommer RJ, David DC Signalling

During aging, proteostasis capacity declines and distinct proteins become unstable and can accumulate as protein aggregates inside and outside of cells. Both in disease and during aging, proteins selectively aggregate in certain tissues and not others. Yet, tissue-specific regulation of cytoplasmic protein aggregation remains poorly understood. Surprisingly, we found that the inhibition of 3 core protein quality control systems, namely chaperones, the proteasome, and macroautophagy, leads to lower levels of age-dependent protein aggregation in Caenorhabditis elegans pharyngeal muscles, but higher levels in body-wall muscles. We describe a novel safety mechanism that selectively targets newly synthesized proteins to suppress their aggregation and associated proteotoxicity. The safety mechanism relies on macroautophagy-independent lysosomal degradation and involves several previously uncharacterized components of the intracellular pathogen response (IPR). We propose that this protective mechanism engages an anti-aggregation machinery targeting aggregating proteins for lysosomal degradation.

+view abstract PLoS biology, PMID: 37708127

Gallotta I, Sandhu A, Peters M, Haslbeck M, Jung R, Agilkaya S, Blersch JL, R枚delsperger C, R枚seler W, Huang C, Sommer RJ, David DC Signalling

In metazoans, the secreted proteome participates in intercellular signalling and innate immunity, and builds the extracellular matrix scaffold around cells. Compared with the relatively constant intracellular environment, conditions for proteins in the extracellular space are harsher, and low concentrations of ATP prevent the activity of intracellular components of the protein quality-control machinery. Until now, only a few bona fide extracellular chaperones and proteases have been shown to limit the aggregation of extracellular proteins. Here we performed a systematic analysis of the extracellular proteostasis network in Caenorhabditis elegans with an RNA interference screen that targets genes that encode the secreted proteome. We discovered 57 regulators of extracellular protein aggregation, including several proteins related to innate immunity. Because intracellular proteostasis is upregulated in response to pathogens, we investigated whether pathogens also stimulate extracellular proteostasis. Using a pore-forming toxin to mimic a pathogenic attack, we found that C. elegans responded by increasing the expression of components of extracellular proteostasis and by limiting aggregation of extracellular proteins. The activation of extracellular proteostasis was dependent on stress-activated MAP kinase signalling. Notably, the overexpression of components of extracellular proteostasis delayed ageing and rendered worms resistant to intoxication. We propose that enhanced extracellular proteostasis contributes to systemic host defence by maintaining a functional secreted proteome and avoiding proteotoxicity.

+view abstract Nature, PMID: 32641833

Group Members

Della David

Group Leader

Joseph Chadwick

Research Assistant

Yoon Hee Choi

Postdoc Research Scientist

Hugo Fitzmaurice

Visiting Student

Ivan Gallotta

Postdoc Research Scientist

Harry Jones

PhD Student

Trinh Kieu Trinh

Visiting Student

Pavi Manivannan

Research Assistant

Bolanle Olabiyi

Postdoc Research Scientist

Max Thompson

Postdoc Research Scientist