An early age increase in vacuolar pH limits mitochondrial function and lifespan in yeast

Nature. 2012 Dec 13;492(7428):261-5. doi: 10.1038/nature11654. Epub 2012 Nov 21.


Mitochondria have a central role in ageing. They are considered to be both a target of the ageing process and a contributor to it. Alterations in mitochondrial structure and function are evident during ageing in most eukaryotes, but how this occurs is poorly understood. Here we identify a functional link between the lysosome-like vacuole and mitochondria in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and show that mitochondrial dysfunction in replicatively aged yeast arises from altered vacuolar pH. We found that vacuolar acidity declines during the early asymmetric divisions of a mother cell, and that preventing this decline suppresses mitochondrial dysfunction and extends lifespan. Surprisingly, changes in vacuolar pH do not limit mitochondrial function by disrupting vacuolar protein degradation, but rather by reducing pH-dependent amino acid storage in the vacuolar lumen. We also found that calorie restriction promotes lifespan extension at least in part by increasing vacuolar acidity via conserved nutrient-sensing pathways. Interestingly, although vacuolar acidity is reduced in aged mother cells, acidic vacuoles are regenerated in newborn daughters, coinciding with daughter cells having a renewed lifespan potential. Overall, our results identify vacuolar pH as a critical regulator of ageing and mitochondrial function, and outline a potentially conserved mechanism by which calorie restriction delays the ageing process. Because the functions of the vacuole are highly conserved throughout evolution, we propose that lysosomal pH may modulate mitochondrial function and lifespan in other eukaryotic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lysosomes / chemistry
  • Lysosomes / physiology
  • Microbial Viability*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / genetics
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / chemistry
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Vacuoles / chemistry*
  • Vacuoles / physiology


  • Amino Acids
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases
  • VMA1 protein, S cerevisiae