A glass (or two) of red wine is known to be better than pretty much anything else to unwind after a stressful day. Turns out that response is not learned, but in your DNA.
Resveratrol, the chemical in red wine that has been lauded for its heart-protecting properties and other benefits, works by activating an evolutionary stress response in human cells, according to scientists at The Scripps Research Institute.
"This stress response represents a layer of biology that has been largely overlooked," said senior investigator Paul Schimmel.
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The key, Schimmel and lead author Mathew Sajish found, is that resveratrol fits into the same binding pocket as the amino acid tyrosine. This enables it to hitch a ride on a molecule called TyrRS that moves into the nucleus of a cell when it's under stress to protect it, activating a protein that repairs DNA, suppresses tumors and is thought to have an effect on lifespan, according to the researchers.
Interestingly, stressors like drought, infection and ultraviolet radioation are what prompt grapes, cacao trees and a few other plants to produce resveratrol.
“We believe that TyrRS has evolved to act as a top-level switch or activator of a fundamental cell-protecting mechanism that works in virtually all forms of life,” said Sajish.