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Journal: Mechanisms of ageing and development


Moderate stress can increase lifespan by hormesis, a beneficial low-level induction of stress response pathways. 5'-fluorodeoxyuridine (FUdR) is commonly used to sterilize Caenorhabditis elegans in aging experiments. However, FUdR alters lifespan in some genotypes and induces resistance to thermal and proteotoxic stress. We report that hypertonic stress in combination with FUdR treatment or inhibition of the FUdR target thymidylate synthase, TYMS-1, extends C. elegans lifespan by up to 30%. By contrast, in the absence of FUdR, hypertonic stress decreases lifespan. Adaptation to hypertonic stress requires diminished Notch signaling and loss of Notch co-ligands leads to lifespan extension only in combination with FUdR. Either FUdR treatment or TYMS-1 loss induced resistance to acute hypertonic stress, anoxia, and thermal stress. FUdR treatment increased expression of DAF-16 FOXO and the osmolyte biosynthesis enzyme GPDH-1. FUdR-induced hypertonic stress resistance was partially dependent on sirtuins and base excision repair (BER) pathways, while FUdR-induced lifespan extension under hypertonic stress conditions requires DAF-16, BER, and sirtuin function. Combined, these results demonstrate that FUdR, through inhibition of TYMS-1, activates stress response pathways in somatic tissues to confer hormetic resistance to acute and chronic stress. C. elegans lifespan studies using FUdR may need re-interpretation in light of this work.

Concepts: Nervous system, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis, Rhabditidae, Nucleotide excision repair, Caenorhabditis briggsae, Osmosis


Human aging is associated with a loss of skeletal muscle and an increase in circulating inflammatory markers. It is unknown whether endurance training (Tr) can prevent these changes. Therefore we studied 15 old trained (O-Tr) healthy males and, for comparison, 12 old untrained (O-Un), 10 Young-Tr (Y-Tr) and 12 Young-Un (Y-Un). Quadriceps size, VO2 peak, CRP, IL-6, TNF-α and its receptors, suPAR, lipid profile, leucocytes and glucose homeostasis were measured. Tr was associated with an improved insulin profile (p<0.05), and lower leucocyte (p<0.05) and triglyceride levels (p<0.05), independent of age. Aging was associated with poorer glucose control (p<0.05), independent of training. The age-related changes in waist circumference, VO2 peak, cholesterol, LDL, leg muscle size, CRP and IL-6 were counteracted by physical activity (p<0.05). A significant increase in suPAR with age was observed (p<0.05). Most importantly, life-long endurance exercise was associated with a lower level of the inflammatory markers CRP and IL-6 (p<0.05), and with a greater thigh muscle area (p<0.05), compared to age-matched untrained counterparts. These findings in a limited group of individuals suggest that regular physical endurance activity may play a role in reducing some markers of systemic inflammation, even within the normal range, and in maintaining muscle mass with aging.

Concepts: Inflammation, Metabolism, Muscle, Physical exercise, Exercise, Glycogen, Exercise physiology, Endurance


Many candidate biomarkers of human ageing have been proposed in the scientific literature but in all cases their variability in cross-sectional studies is considerable, and therefore no single measurement has proven to serve a useful marker to determine, on its own, biological age. A plausible reason for this is the intrinsic multi-causal and multi-system nature of the ageing process. The recently performed MARK-AGE study was a large-scale integrated project supported by the European Commission. The major aim of this project was to conduct a population study comprising about 3300 subjects in order to identify a set of biomarkers of ageing which, as a combination of parameters with appropriate weighting, would measure biological age better than any marker in isolation.

Concepts: European Union, Population, Ageing, European Commission, Seventh Framework Programme


Cellular senescence was first described by Hayflick and Moorhead in the 1960s as the irreversible arrest of cells following prolonged cultivation. Telomere shortening is the key mechanism driving replicative senescence in human fibroblasts. Later, pioneering work by Olivier Toussaint and others showed that stress plays a major role in the induction of senescence in vitro, a phenomenon known as stress-induced premature senescence or SIPS. It is also now widely accepted that senescence plays a role in vivo. An emerging body of evidence from animal models, and particularly mice, has demonstrated an important role for senescence in several processes such as embryonic development, wound healing, tumour suppression and ageing. However, mostly due to a lack of availability of tissues and specific markers, less is known about the importance of cell senescence in humans. In this review, we summarize some of the key findings in the field of senescence, stress-induced senescence and telomeres. We focus particularly on the role of telomere dysfunction and senescence during the ageing process as well as potential interventions, including pharmacological approaches like telomerase activators and senolytics, to counteract their detrimental effects in ageing and disease.

Concepts: DNA, Death, Senescence, Cell division, Gerontology, Telomerase, Telomere, Biological immortality


The relationship between energy expenditure and longevity has been a central theme in aging studies. Empirical studies have yielded controversial results, which cannot be reconciled by existing theories. In this paper, we present a simple theoretical model based on first principles of energy conservation and allometric scaling laws. The model takes into considerations the energy tradeoffs between life history traits and the efficiency of the energy utilization, and offers quantitative and qualitative explanations for a set of seemingly contradictory empirical results. We show that oxidative metabolism can affect cellular damage and longevity in different ways in animals with different life histories and under different experimental conditions. Qualitative data and the linearity between energy expenditure, cellular damage, and lifespan assumed in previous studies are not sufficient to understand the complexity of the relationships. Our model provides a theoretical framework for quantitative analyses and predictions. The model is supported by a variety of empirical studies, including studies on the cellular damage profile during ontogeny; the intra- and inter-specific correlations between body mass, metabolic rate, and lifespan; and the effects on lifespan of (1) diet restriction and genetic modification of growth hormone, (2) the cold and exercise stresses, and (3) manipulations of antioxidant.

Concepts: Scientific method, Metabolism, Physics, Growth hormone, Empiricism, Experiment, Theory, Allometry


The traditional diet in Okinawa is anchored by root vegetables (principally sweet potatoes), green and yellow vegetables, soybean-based foods, and medicinal plants. Marine foods, lean meats, fruit, medicinal garnishes and spices, tea, alcohol are also moderately consumed. Many characteristics of the traditional Okinawan diet are shared with other healthy dietary patterns, including the traditional Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and Portfolio diet. All these dietary patterns are associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, among other age-associated diseases. Overall, the important shared features of these healthy dietary patterns include: high intake of unrefined carbohydrates, moderate protein intake with emphasis on vegetables/legumes, fish, and lean meats as sources, and a healthy fat profile (higher in mono/polyunsaturated fats, lower in saturated fat; rich in omega-3). The healthy fat intake is likely one mechanism for reducing inflammation, optimizing cholesterol, and other risk factors. Additionally, the lower caloric density of plant-rich diets results in lower caloric intake with concomitant high intake of phytonutrients and antioxidants. Other shared features include low glycemic load, less inflammation and oxidative stress, and potential modulation of aging-related biological pathways. This may reduce risk for chronic age-associated diseases and promote healthy aging and longevity.

Concepts: Protein, Medicine, Nutrition, Death, Fat, Diet, Saturated fat, Diets


Human ageing is associated with decreased cellular plasticity and adaptability. Changes in alternative splicing with advancing age have been reported in man, which may arise from age-related alterations in splicing factor expression. We determined whether the mRNA expression of key splicing factors differed with age, by microarray analysis in blood from two human populations and by qRT-PCR in senescent primary fibroblasts and endothelial cells. Potential regulators of splicing factor expression were investigated by siRNA analysis. Approximately one third of splicing factors demonstrated age-related transcript expression changes in two human populations. Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM) transcript expression correlated with splicing factor expression in human microarray data. Senescent primary fibroblasts and endothelial cells also demonstrated alterations in splicing factor expression, and changes in alternative splicing. Targeted knockdown of the ATM gene in primary fibroblasts resulted in up-regulation of some age-responsive splicing factor transcripts. We conclude that isoform ratios and splicing factor expression alters with age in-vivo and in vitro, and that ATM may have an inhibitory role on the expression of some splicing factors. These findings suggest for the first time that ATM, a core element in the DNA damage response, is a key regulator of the splicing machinery in man.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, RNA, DNA repair, Messenger RNA, DNA microarray, Alternative splicing


Telomere length is hypothesised to be a biological marker of both cognitive and physical ageing. Here we measure telomere length, and cognitive and physical abilities at mean ages 70, 73 and 76 years in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936), and at mean ages 79, 87, 90 and 92 years in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 (LBC1921). We investigate whether telomere length change predicts change in cognitive and physical abilities. In LBC1936 telomere length decreased by an average of 65 base pairs per year and in LBC1921 by 69 base pairs per year. However, change in telomere length did not predict change in cognitive or physical abilities. This study shows that, although cognitive ability, walking speed, lung function and grip strength all decline with age, they do so independently of telomere length shortening.

Concepts: DNA, Cohort study, Genetics, Senescence, Base pair, Age, Mind, Telomere


Changes in the abundance and post-translational modification of proteins and accumulation of some covalently modified proteins have been proposed to represent hallmarks of biological ageing. Within the frame of the Mark-Age project, the workpackage dedicated to “markers based on proteins and their modifications” has been firstly focused on enzymatic and non-enzymatic post-translational modifications of serum proteins by carbohydrates. The second focus of the workpackage has been directed towards protein maintenance systems that are involved either in protein quality control (ApoJ/Clusterin) or in the removal of oxidatively damaged proteins through degradation and repair (proteasome and methionine sulfoxide reductase systems). This review describes the most relevant features of these protein modifications and maintenance systems, their fate during ageing and/or their implication in ageing and longevity.

Concepts: Amino acid, Posttranslational modification


Stem cells being pluripotent in nature can differentiate into a wide array of specific cells and asymmetrically divide to produce new ones but may undergo aging by themselves. Aging has both quantitative and qualitative effects on stem cells, and could eventually restrain them from replenishing into progenitor cells. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulated in the aging cells could not only block the cell cycle but also affect autophagy by damaging the mitochondria. Autophagy could eliminate redundant production of ROS in aging stem cells and helps to maintain the proliferation capacity by restraining the expression of p16INK4a. Current studies showed that improving autophagy could restore the regenerative ability of aging stem cells. Therefore, it is important for an organism to maintain the appropriate autophagy. Caloric restriction (CR) was shown to retard the stem cell aging by a certain basic level of autophagy, suggesting that CR was an effective way to extend longevity in mammals. However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms. In this review, we tried to explore the molecular mechanisms on how CR induces appropriate autophagy to restore aging stem cell regenerative ability.