Intersection of calorie restriction and magnesium in the suppression of genome-destabilizing RNA-DNA hybrids

Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Oct 14;44(18):8870-8884. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkw752. Epub 2016 Aug 29.


Dietary calorie restriction is a broadly acting intervention that extends the lifespan of various organisms from yeast to mammals. On another front, magnesium (Mg2+) is an essential biological metal critical to fundamental cellular processes and is commonly used as both a dietary supplement and treatment for some clinical conditions. If connections exist between calorie restriction and Mg2+ is unknown. Here, we show that Mg2+, acting alone or in response to dietary calorie restriction, allows eukaryotic cells to combat genome-destabilizing and lifespan-shortening accumulations of RNA-DNA hybrids, or R-loops. In an R-loop accumulation model of Pbp1-deficient Saccharomyces cerevisiae, magnesium ions guided by cell membrane Mg2+ transporters Alr1/2 act via Mg2+-sensitive R-loop suppressors Rnh1/201 and Pif1 to restore R-loop suppression, ribosomal DNA stability and cellular lifespan. Similarly, human cells deficient in ATXN2, the human ortholog of Pbp1, exhibit nuclear R-loop accumulations repressible by Mg2+ in a process that is dependent on the TRPM7 Mg2+ transporter and the RNaseH1 R-loop suppressor. Thus, we identify Mg2+ as a biochemical signal of beneficial calorie restriction, reveal an R-loop suppressing function for human ATXN2 and propose that practical magnesium supplementation regimens can be used to combat R-loop accumulation linked to the dysfunction of disease-linked human genes.

MeSH terms

  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Cell Line
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • RNA / genetics*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • Yeasts / genetics
  • Yeasts / metabolism


  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Magnesium