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LSSS 2016-2017


Life Sciences Seminar Series


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Jan Hoeijmakers

Department of Genetics, Cancer Genomics Center, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

The impact of DNA damage on sustained health

Selected Publications

Restricted diet delays accelerated ageing and genomic stress in DNA-repair-deficient mice.Vermeij WP, Dollé ME, Reiling E, Jaarsma D, Payan-Gomez C, Bombardieri CR, Wu H, Roks AJ, Botter SM, van der Eerden BC, Youssef SA, Kuiper RV, Nagarajah B, van Oostrom CT, Brandt RM, Barnhoorn S, Imholz S, Pennings JL, de Bruin A, Gyenis Á, Pothof J, Vijg J, van Steeg H, Hoeijmakers JH
Nature 2016 Aug 24; 537(7620):427-431


Mice deficient in the DNA excision-repair gene Ercc1 (Ercc1(∆/-)) show numerous accelerated ageing features that limit their lifespan to 4-6 months. They also exhibit a 'survival response', which suppresses growth and enhances cellular maintenance. Such a response resembles the anti-ageing response induced by dietary restriction (also known as caloric restriction). Here we report that a dietary restriction of 30% tripled the median and maximal remaining lifespans of these progeroid mice, strongly retarding numerous aspects of accelerated ageing. Mice undergoing dietary restriction retained 50% more neurons and maintained full motor function far beyond the lifespan of mice fed ad libitum. Other DNA-repair-deficient, progeroid Xpg(-/-) (also known as Ercc5(-/-)) mice, a model of Cockayne syndrome, responded similarly. The dietary restriction response in Ercc1(∆/-) mice closely resembled the effects of dietary restriction in wild-type animals. Notably, liver tissue from Ercc1(∆/-) mice fed ad libitum showed preferential extinction of the expression of long genes, a phenomenon we also observed in several tissues ageing normally. This is consistent with the accumulation of stochastic, transcription-blocking lesions that affect long genes more than short ones. Dietary restriction largely prevented this declining transcriptional output and reduced the number of γH2AX DNA damage foci, indicating that dietary restriction preserves genome function by alleviating DNA damage. Our findings establish the Ercc1(∆/-) mouse as a powerful model organism for health-sustaining interventions, reveal potential for reducing endogenous DNA damage, facilitate a better understanding of the molecular mechanism of dietary restriction and suggest a role for counterintuitive dietary-restriction-like therapy for human progeroid genome instability syndromes and possibly neurodegeneration in general.

Inefficient DNA Repair Is an Aging-Related Modifier of Parkinson's Disease.Sepe S, Milanese C, Gabriels S, Derks KW, Payan-Gomez C, van IJcken WF, Rijksen YM, Nigg AL, Moreno S, Cerri S, Blandini F, Hoeijmakers JH, Mastroberardino PG
Cell Rep 2016 May 31; 15(9):1866-75


The underlying relation between Parkinson's disease (PD) etiopathology and its major risk factor, aging, is largely unknown. In light of the causative link between genome stability and aging, we investigate a possible nexus between DNA damage accumulation, aging, and PD by assessing aging-related DNA repair pathways in laboratory animal models and humans. We demonstrate that dermal fibroblasts from PD patients display flawed nucleotide excision repair (NER) capacity and that Ercc1 mutant mice with mildly compromised NER exhibit typical PD-like pathological alterations, including decreased striatal dopaminergic innervation, increased phospho-synuclein levels, and defects in mitochondrial respiration. Ercc1 mouse mutants are also more sensitive to the prototypical PD toxin MPTP, and their transcriptomic landscape shares important similarities with that of PD patients. Our results demonstrate that specific defects in DNA repair impact the dopaminergic system and are associated with human PD pathology and might therefore constitute an age-related risk factor for PD.