Protein aggregation triggers a declining libido in elder yeasts that still have a lust for life
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Many organisms have to face a physiological decline that is associated with age. Humans and even budding yeast accumulate scars and cellular damages. A single yeast cell can only produce a limited number of daughter cells and thus has a finite replicative lifespan. Many studies have now identified molecular ageing factors and defects in organelle functions linked to the ageing process. However, at the cellular level, the most striking phenotype of yeast elders is their loss of mating ability. This sterility in old cells has been linked to a loss of response to mating pheromone, the peptide that haploid yeast cells send to opposite mating type cells in order to signal their presence and readiness to mate. Our results (Schlissel et al., 2017) demonstrate that old cells are unable to respond to mating pheromone due to age-induced aggregation of the protein Whi3. We recently discovered that Whi3 changes conformation and coalesces when cells experience and memorise a deceptive mating attempt. Together, these results prompt the question of how proteins physiologically aggregating behave during ageing, induce age associated phenotypes and influence the ageing process itself.