Dr. Alexandre de Lencastre is an assistant professor of biology at Quinnipiac University.
Research summary: Although hundreds of miRNAs have been identified in higher eukaryotes, the function of the vast majority of these remains a mystery. To uncover novel functions of miRNAs, we surveyed the expression of small RNAs in C. elegans during adulthood and characterized their function. We uncovered novel miRNAs and piRNAs that affect lifespan and stress resistance in C. elegans. We show that these novel RNAs are differentially regulated in aging animals and function through the DNA damage-response and insulin-signaling pathways. In addition, some aging-associated miRNAs interact with genes involved in dietary-restriction-induced lifespan extension in C. elegans. The targets of these aging-associated RNAs reside in signaling pathways that are conserved from yeast to humans, suggesting that miRNAs and other small RNAs may play important roles in stress response and aging of more complex organisms.