Dario Riccardo Valenzano

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Systemic regulation of ageing by the gut microbiota in the naturally short-lived African turquoise killifish



Gut bacteria occupy the interface between the organism and the external environment, contributing to development, homeostasis and disease. Yet, the causal role of the gut microbiota during host ageing is largely unexplored. Using the African turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri), a naturally short-lived vertebrate with a life span of only four months, we show that the gut microbiota plays a key role in modulating vertebrate ageing and life span. Recolonising the gut of middle-age individuals with bacteria from young donors resulted in life span extension and delayed behavioural decline. This intervention delayed the decrease in microbial diversity associated with host ageing, reshaped B-cell antibody repertoire and reset a young-like gut bacterial community, characterised by overrepresentation of the key genera Exiguobacterium, Planococcus, Propionigenium and Psychrobacter. Our findings demonstrate that the natural microbial gut community of young individuals can causally induce long-lasting beneficial systemic effects that lead to life span extension in a vertebrate model. 


"Dario Riccardo Valenzano leads a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany. He studied Biology and Neuroscience in Italy at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, and after a postdoc in the Department of Genetics at Stanford University, in 2013 he established his research group in Cologne. His research is focused on understanding how evolution shapes life history traits (development, sexual maturation, ageing) and how ageing and longevity affect fitness in wild populations. His group also investigates what is the impact of the commensal gut microbial community on the host’s ageing and he is developing strategies to modulate life span targeting the gut microbiota. His main model system is the naturally short-lived turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri), which he started to develop as a novel model organism during graduate school. He devotes his time doing computational work and supervising scientific projects in his lab in Cologne, and once a year he conducts fieldwork in the African savannah, where he studies his favourite fish in their natural habitat."