The non-reducing disaccharide trehalose has been long considered only as a reserve carbohydrate. However, recent studies in yeast suggested that this osmolyte can protect cells and cellular proteins from oxidative damage elicited by exogenously added reactive oxygen species (ROS). Trehalose has been also shown to affect stability, folding, and aggregation of bacterial and firefly proteins heterologously expressed in heat-shocked yeast cells. Our recent investigation of how a lifespan-extending caloric restriction (CR) diet alters the metabolic history of chronologically aging yeast suggested that their longevity is programmed by the level of metabolic capacity - including trehalose biosynthesis and degradation - that yeast cells developed prior to entry into quiescence. To investigate whether trehalose homeostasis in chronologically aging yeast may play a role in longevity extension by CR, in this study we examined how single-gene-deletion mutations affecting trehalose biosynthesis and degradation impact (1) the age-related dynamics of changes in trehalose concentration; (2) yeast chronological lifespan under CR conditions; (3) the chronology of oxidative protein damage, intracellular ROS level and protein aggregation; and (4) the timeline of thermal inactivation of a protein in heat-shocked yeast cells and its subsequent reactivation in yeast returned to low temperature. Our data imply that CR extends yeast chronological lifespan in part by altering a pattern of age-related changes in trehalose concentration. We outline a model for molecular mechanisms underlying the essential role of trehalose in defining yeast longevity by modulating protein folding, misfolding, unfolding, refolding, oxidative damage, solubility, and aggregation throughout lifespan.
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