DNA damage-how and why we age?

Elife. 2021 Jan 29;10:e62852. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62852.

Abstract

Aging is a complex process that results in loss of the ability to reattain homeostasis following stress, leading, thereby, to increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Many factors contribute to aging, such as the time-dependent accumulation of macromolecular damage, including DNA damage. The integrity of the nuclear genome is essential for cellular, tissue, and organismal health. DNA damage is a constant threat because nucleic acids are chemically unstable under physiological conditions and vulnerable to attack by endogenous and environmental factors. To combat this, all organisms possess highly conserved mechanisms to detect and repair DNA damage. Persistent DNA damage (genotoxic stress) triggers signaling cascades that drive cells into apoptosis or senescence to avoid replicating a damaged genome. The drawback is that these cancer avoidance mechanisms promote aging. Here, we review evidence that DNA damage plays a causal role in aging. We also provide evidence that genotoxic stress is linked to other cellular processes implicated as drivers of aging, including mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction, altered proteostasis and inflammation. These links between damage to the genetic code and other pillars of aging support the notion that DNA damage could be the root of aging.

Keywords: Aging; DNA damage; DNA repair; genetics; genome instability; genomics; progeria.