Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interspecies signalling

In the journal Cell this week (with this neat 'graphical abstract'):
Bacterial Nitric Oxide Extends the Lifespan of C. elegans

Nitric oxide (NO) is an important signaling molecule in multicellular organisms. Most animals produce NO from L-arginine via a family of dedicated enzymes known as NO synthases (NOSes). A rare exception is the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, which lacks its own NOS. However, in its natural environment, C. elegans feeds on Bacilli that possess functional NOS. Here, we demonstrate that bacterially derived NO enhances C. elegans longevity and stress resistance via a defined group of genes that function under the dual control of HSF-1 and DAF-16 transcription factors. Our work provides an example of interspecies signaling by a small molecule and illustrates the lifelong value of commensal bacteria to their host.

Science Daily has a report as well: Nitric Oxide: A Little Molecule's Remarkable Feat -- Prolonging Life, Worm Study Shows
Nitric oxide, the versatile gas that helps increase blood flow, transmit nerve signals, and regulate immune function, appears to perform one more biological feat -- prolonging the life of an organism and fortifying it against environmental stress, according to a new study.

Nitric oxide is why all the cool kids, well the athletic ones anyway, are drinking beet juice. Beet juice has large amounts of nitrate which bacteria in you mouth and intestines convert to nitrites which is converted to nitric oxide. This lowers blood pressure and increases oxygen supply to tissues: All the Olympic Athletes Are Guzzling Beet Juice. The only downsides are that beet juice is an acquired taste (although beet-carrot-apple is pretty good), and that it colors your urine a disturbing bright red.

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