Genes of Human Longevity: An Endless Quest?
Maria Giulia Bacalini,
Human longevity is a complex trait in which genetics, epigenetics, environmental and stochasticity differently
contribute. To disentangle the complexity, our studies on genetics of longevity were, at the beginning, mainly focused on
the extreme phenotypes, i.e. centenarians who escaped the major age-related diseases compared with cross sectional cohorts.
Recently, we implemented this model by studying centenarians’ offspring and offspring of non-long lived parents.
In association, during studies on many candidate genes SNPs, positively or negatively correlated with longevity have been
identified. The results obtained on Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 Receptor (IGF1R) polymorphisms showed a correlation
between specific genetic variants combinations and the low plasma level of IGF1 in centenarians, suggesting an impact of
the IGF-I/insulin pathway on human longevity. This pathway together with mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) will
be reviewed as being the most promising for longevity. Further, we will summarise the role of apolipoprotein E (APOE)
variants in human longevity since the results of the large European project GEHA (Genetics of Healthy Aging) indicate
APOE among the chromosomal loci associated with longevity. On the other hand, the identification of longevity-related
genes does not explain the mechanisms of healthy aging and longevity rather pose questions on epigenetic contribution,
gene regulation and the interactions with essential genomes, i.e. mitochondrial DNA and microbiota. To fully disentangle
what appears to be an endless quest, all the components of the complexity of human longevity genetics are taken into account.
Keywords: Longevity, epigenetics, IGF-1, mTOR, APOE, ELOVL2, mtDNA, microbiota.
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