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The mysterious case of the C. elegans gut granule: death fluorescence, anthranilic acid and the kynurenine pathway

Institute of Healthy Ageing, and Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London London, UK.
Frontiers in Genetics 08/2013; 4:151. DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2013.00151
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Gut granules are lysosome-like organelles with acidic interiors that are found in large numbers within the intestine of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. They are particularly prominent when viewed under ultraviolet light, which causes them to emit intense blue fluorescence. Yet the function of these large and abundant organelles in this heavily-studied model organism remains unclear. One possibility is that they serve as storage organelles, for example of zinc. A new clue to gut granule function is the identification of the blue fluorescent material that they contain as a glycosylated form of anthranilic acid, which is derived from tryptophan by action of the kynurenine pathway. This compound can also serve a surprising role as a natural, endogenous marker of organismal death.

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    • "New facts are needed to advance our understanding of aging, and studies of model organisms continue to provide us with valuable information. There are five articles in the collection, which represent new discoveries in genetics of aging of Caenorhabditis elegans (Bharill et al., 2013; Coburn and Gems, 2013), Drosophila melanogaster (Rogina and Helfand, 2013; Shostal and Moskalev, 2013), and mice (Bartke and Westbrook, 2012). In one of the most intriguing articles, Coburn and Gems (2013) come to the conclusion that the blue fluorescence of gut granules, a marker of death in C. elegans, is issued from anthranilic acid glucosyl esters, rather than from lipofuscin. "
    Frontiers in Genetics 08/2014; 5. DOI:10.3389/fgene.2014.00276
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