Direct in vivo imaging of ferrous iron dyshomeostasis in ageing Caenorhabditis elegans†
Iron is essential for eukaryotic biochemistry. Systematic trafficking and storage is required to maintain supply of iron while preventing it from catalysing unwanted reactions, particularly the generation of oxidising reactive species. Iron dyshomeostasis has been implicated in major age-associated diseases including cancers, neurodegeneration and heart disease. Here, we employ population-level X-ray fluorescence imaging and native-metalloproteomic analysis to determine that altered iron coordination and distribution is a pathological imperative of ageing in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans. Our approach provides a method to simultaneously study iron metabolism across different scales of biological organisation, from populations to cells. Here we report how and where iron homeostasis is lost during C. elegans ageing, and its relationship to the age-related elevation of damaging reactive oxygen species. We find that wild types utilise ferritin to sustain longevity, buffering against exogenous iron and showing rapid ageing if ferritin is ablated. After reproduction, escape of iron from safe-storage in ferritin raised cellular Fe2+ load in the ageing C. elegans, and increased generation of reactive species. These findings support the hypothesis that iron-mediated processes drive senescence. We propose that loss of iron homeostasis may be a fundamental and inescapable consequence of ageing that could represent a critical target for therapeutic strategies to improve health outcomes in ageing.