ZIP-5/bZIP transcription factor regulation of folate metabolism is critical for aging axon regeneration
Aging is associated with reduced capacity for tissue repair, perhaps the most critical of which is a decline in the ability of aged neurons to recover after injury. Identifying factors that improve the regenerative ability of aging neurons is a prerequisite for therapy design and remains an enormous challenge, yet many of the genes that play a role in regeneration of youthful axons do not regulate axon regeneration in older animals2,9, highlighting the need to identify aging-specific regeneration mechanisms. Previously, we found that increased DAF-16/FOXO activity enhances the regenerative ability of mechanosensory axons in aged animals9. Here we show that DAF-16/FOXO mediates its pro-regenerative effects by upregulating folate metabolism genes via the ZIP-5 bZIP transcription factor. Remarkably, dietary folic acid supplementation improves the regeneration of aging C. elegans axons. Enzymes regulating folate metabolism are also up-regulated in regenerating zebrafish fins, and we show that dietary folic acid supplementation post-amputation enhances fin regrowth in aging zebrafish. Our results demonstrate that boosting folate metabolism is a conserved and non-invasive approach to increase the regenerative capacity of aging neurons and tissues. Given that lower folate status has been linked with reduced cognition in the elderly17, maintaining optimal folate metabolism may be a general strategy to achieve healthy brain aging.