Klotho: A gene that plays a role in regulating the aging process in animals. Sometimes spelled in all capital letters and often abbreviated as KL, the gene was named for Klotho, the Greek goddess of fate who spins the thread of the life. Klotho’s sister-Fates, or Moirae, are Lachesis, who determines the length of life, and Atropos, who cuts the thread. Klotho is also the name of a pleiotropic protein (pleiotropic: producing more than one effect) encoded in the KL gene.
Klotho was discovered in 1997 by a team of Japanese scientists. It was in the news last week when scientists at UC San Francisco and the Gladstone Institutes (also in San Francisco) announced the discovery of a KL variant that improves learning and memory. The findings were published in Cell Reports.
From the press release:
The researchers found that people who carry a single copy of the KL-VS variant of the KLOTHO gene perform better on a wide variety of cognitive tests. When the researchers modeled the effects in mice, they found it strengthened the connections between neurons that make learning possible – what is known as synaptic plasticity – by increasing the action of a cell receptor critical to forming memories.
Klotho (the Latin form is Clotho) translates to “the spinner,” but it’s not related to English cloth, which comes to us almost unchanged from an Old English word, claþ—the last letter is thorn, pronounced th—that meant a cloth or a sail. The word for “spinner” in Old English was spinnan.