An investigation published in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution determined the past of sirtuin, present in ancestors of marine vertebrates that existed more than 600 million years ago.

Sirtuins are a family of proteins that play an important role in the regulation of aging and in a number of biological processes related to health and longevity. This enzyme can be found in various species of mammals, birds and marine vertebrates.

Due to its significant function, a team of 12 researchers made important advances in understanding the evolutionary history of this gene lineage, through genome analysis in different species. In particular, a specimen of elephant shark has made it possible to identify a new member of this group.

The scientists registered the SIRT3.2 gene, which would have been lost in the ancestors of mammals, birds and reptiles, but which was maintained in all other groups of jawed vertebrates, such as elasmobranchs, a genus that includes sharks and manta rays.

The gene is found in the mitochondria of these animals and its overexposure leads to an increase in cellular levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate,) a molecule that is responsible for energy transfer in cells. The research also determined that there are at least eight sirtuin genes in vertebrates, present in ancestors that existed between 676 and 615 million years ago.

“Studying the evolution of sirtuin gene families is a challenging but exciting task. It is a group of genes involved in various biological functions related mainly to aging,” explained Dr. Juan C. Opazo, an academic at the San Sebastián University (USS) and author of the study.

“This work took advantage of the availability of genomic information in different public databases to advance the understanding of the diversity of vertebrate sirtuin genes and infer their evolutionary history,” explained Dr. Luis Vargas-Chacoff, an academic at the Austral University of Chile (UACh) and researcher at the Center for Dynamic Research of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) and the BASE Millennium Institute.

The scientist highlighted the collaborative work between the study centers involved, allowing the study area to be expanded. “Potentially, we can open a line to study fish in Antarctica,” he noted.

The work, published in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, was dedicated to the memory of doctors Francisco Bozinovic and Andrés Rivera-Dictter.

Read the study here.