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Abstract: Epigenetic alteration has been implicated in aging. However, the mechanism by which epigenetic change impacts aging remains to be understood. H3K27me3, a highly conserved histone modification signifying transcriptional repression, is marked and maintained by Polycomb Repressive Complexes (PRCs). Here, we explore the mechanism by which age-modulated increase of H3K27me3 impacts adult lifespan. Using Drosophila, we reveal that aging leads to loss of fidelity in epigenetic marking and drift of H3K27me3 and consequential reduction in the expression of glycolytic genes with negative effects on energy production and redox state. We show that a reduction of H3K27me3 by PRCs-deficiency promotes glycolysis and healthy lifespan. While perturbing glycolysis diminishes the pro-lifespan benefits mediated by PRCs-deficiency, transgenic increase of glycolytic genes in wild-type animals extends longevity. Together, we propose that epigenetic drift of H3K27me3 is one of the molecular mechanisms that contribute to aging and that stimulation of glycolysis promotes metabolic health and longevity.
Discussion: Aging is a complex process that can be regulated by a network of multiple mechanisms. It has been well-established that enhancing NAD+ biogenesis promotes healthy lifespan (Anderson et al., 2002; Balan et al., 2008; Mills et al., 2016). As noted, supplementation of NAD+ precursors profoundly elevates energy metabolism by increasing the expression of genes in the TCA cycle as well as glycolysis in C. elegans (Mouchiroud et al., 2013), and promotes glucose metabolism with increased flux through pentose phosphate and glycolytic pathways in mice on a high-fat diet (Mitchell et al., 2018). Therefore, it would be interesting to test whether the life-benefit effects of NAD+ might be through at least in part by the activation of glycolysis. Intriguingly, while declining intracellular NAD+ and thus increased NADH/NAD+ ratio correlate with aging (Zhu et al., 2015), our experiments in Drosophila demonstrate that increased ratios of GSH/(GSH +GSSG) and NADH/NAD+ due to enhanced glycolytic activities may provide a simple but effective way to retard aging. The oxidative phosphorylation, although produces more ATP than glycolysis, can yield intracellular ROS. The accumulation of ROS is the leading proposed cause of decline in cellular function and integrity in aging (Balaban et al., 2005). Thus, modulating H3K27me3 may reprogram bioenergetic decline during aging, which in effect reduces cellular damage and deterioration. Importantly, mammalian glycolytic genes have also been shown as PRCs targets (Brookes et al., 2012). Future investigations, including in-depth comparative analysis of PRCs and glycolytic pathway in the aging process in both flies and humans, may harness common operative mechanisms that modulate metabolic homeostasis and healthy longevity. Given the reversible nature of epigenetic pathways, this study proffers a tempting strategy against age-associated physiological decline and disease.