Synthetic Enzymology and the Fountain of Youth: Repurposing Biology for Longevity

ACS Omega. 2018 Sep 30;3(9):11050-11061. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.8b01620. Epub 2018 Sep 12.


Caloric restriction (CR) is an intervention that can increase maximal lifespan in organisms, but its application to humans remains challenging. A more feasible approach to achieve lifespan extension is to develop CR mimetics that target biochemical pathways affected by CR. Recent studies in the engineering and structural characterization of polyketide synthases (PKSs) have facilitated their use as biocatalysts to produce novel polyketides. Here, we show that by establishing a combinatorial biosynthetic route in Escherichia coli and exploring the substrate promiscuity of a mutant PKS from alfalfa, 413 potential anti-ageing polyketides were biosynthesized. In this approach, novel acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) precursors generated by promiscuous acid-CoA ligases were utilized by PKS to generate polyketides which were then fed to Caenorhabditis elegans to study their potential efficacy in lifespan extension. It was found that CR mimetics like resveratrol can counter the age-associated decline in mitochondrial function and increase the lifespan of C. elegans. Using the mitochondrial respiration profile of C. elegans supplemented for 8 days with 50 μM resveratrol as a blueprint, we can screen our novel polyketides for potential CR mimetics with improved potency. This study highlights the utility of synthetic enzymology in the development of novel anti-ageing therapeutics.