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1.  Do Ames dwarf and calorie-restricted mice share common effects on age-related pathology? 
Pathobiology of Aging & Age Related Diseases  2013;3:10.3402/pba.v3i0.20833.
Since 1996, aging studies using several strains of long-lived mutant mice have been conducted. Among these studies, Ames dwarf mice have been extensively examined to seek clues regarding the role of the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 axis in the aging process. Interestingly, these projects demonstrate that Ames dwarf mice have physiological characteristics that are similar to those seen with calorie restriction, which has been the most effective experimental manipulation capable of extending lifespan in various species. However, this introduces the question of whether Ames dwarf and calorie-restricted (CR) mice have an extended lifespan through common or independent pathways. To answer this question, we compared the disease profiles of Ames dwarf mice to their normal siblings fed either ad libitum (AL) or a CR diet. Our findings show that the changes in age-related diseases between AL-fed Ames dwarf mice and CR wild-type siblings were similar but not identical. Moreover, the effects of CR on age-related pathology showed similarities and differences between Ames dwarf mice and their normal siblings, indicating that calorie restriction and Ames dwarf mice exhibit their anti-aging effects through both independent and common mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3689900  PMID: 23799173
age-related pathology; Ames dwarf mice; calorie restriction; neoplastic disease; aging
2.  Growth hormone-releasing hormone disruption extends lifespan and regulates response to caloric restriction in mice 
eLife  2013;2:e01098.
We examine the impact of targeted disruption of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) in mice on longevity and the putative mechanisms of delayed aging. GHRH knockout mice are remarkably long-lived, exhibiting major shifts in the expression of genes related to xenobiotic detoxification, stress resistance, and insulin signaling. These mutant mice also have increased adiponectin levels and alterations in glucose homeostasis consistent with the removal of the counter-insulin effects of growth hormone. While these effects overlap with those of caloric restriction, we show that the effects of caloric restriction (CR) and the GHRH mutation are additive, with lifespan of GHRH-KO mutants further increased by CR. We conclude that GHRH-KO mice feature perturbations in a network of signaling pathways related to stress resistance, metabolic control and inflammation, and therefore provide a new model that can be used to explore links between GHRH repression, downregulation of the somatotropic axis, and extended longevity.
eLife digest
There is increasing evidence that the hormonal systems involved in growth, the metabolism of glucose, and the processes that balance energy intake and expenditure might also be involved in the aging process. In rodents, mutations in genes involved in these hormone-signaling pathways can substantially increase lifespan, as can a diet that is low in calories but which avoids malnutrition. As well as living longer, such mice also show reductions in age-related conditions such as diabetes, memory loss and cancer.
Many of these effects appear to involve the actions of growth hormone. Mice with mutations that disrupt the development of the pituitary gland, which produces growth hormone, show increased longevity, as do mice that lack the receptor for growth hormone. However, these animals also show changes in a number of other hormones, making it difficult to be sure that the reduction in growth hormone signaling is responsible for their increased lifespan.
Now, Sun et al. have studied mutant mice that lack a gene called GHRH, which promotes the release of growth hormone. These mice, which have normal levels of all other pituitary hormones, lived for up to 50% longer than their wild-type littermates. They were more active than normal mice and had more body fat, and showed greatly increased sensitivity to insulin.
Some of the changes in these mutant mice resembled those seen in animals with a restricted calorie intake, suggesting that the same mechanisms may be implicated in both. However, Sun et al. found that caloric restriction further increased the lifespans of their GHRH knockout mice, indicating that at least some of the effects of caloric restriction are independent of disrupted growth hormone signaling.
The results of this study are an important step forward for understanding how growth hormone signaling and caloric restriction regulate aging, both individually and in combination. The GHRH knockout mice are likely to become an important model system for studying these processes and for understanding the complex interactions between diet and hormonal pathways.
PMCID: PMC3810783  PMID: 24175087
mice; aging; caloric restriction; growth hormone; Mouse
3.  Growth hormone, inflammation and aging 
Pathobiology of Aging & Age Related Diseases  2012;2:10.3402/pba.v2i0.17293.
Mutant animals characterized by extended longevity provide valuable tools to study the mechanisms of aging. Growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) constitute one of the well-established pathways involved in the regulation of aging and lifespan. Ames and Snell dwarf mice characterized by GH deficiency as well as growth hormone receptor/growth hormone binding protein knockout (GHRKO) mice characterized by GH resistance live significantly longer than genetically normal animals. During normal aging of rodents and humans there is increased insulin resistance, disruption of metabolic activities and decline of the function of the immune system. All of these age related processes promote inflammatory activity, causing long term tissue damage and systemic chronic inflammation. However, studies of long living mutants and calorie restricted animals show decreased pro-inflammatory activity with increased levels of anti-inflammatory adipokines such as adiponectin. At the same time, these animals have improved insulin signaling and carbohydrate homeostasis that relate to alterations in the secretory profile of adipose tissue including increased production and release of anti-inflammatory adipokines. This suggests that reduced inflammation promoting healthy metabolism may represent one of the major mechanisms of extended longevity in long-lived mutant mice and likely also in the human.
PMCID: PMC3417471  PMID: 22953033
Ghowth hormone; obesity; inflammation; calorie restriction; aging
4.  Longevity in mice: is stress resistance a common factor? 
Age  2006;28(2):145-162.
A positive relationship between stress resistance and longevity has been reported in a multitude of studies in organisms ranging from yeast to mice. Several mouse lines have been discovered or developed that exhibit extended longevities when compared with normal, wild-type mice of the same genetic background. These long-living lines include the Ames dwarf, Snell dwarf, growth hormone receptor knockout (Laron dwarf), IGF-1 receptor heterozygote, Little, α-MUPA knockout, p66shc knockout, FIRKO, mClk-1 heterozygote, thioredoxin transgenic, and most recently the Klotho transgenic mouse. These mice are described in terms of the reported extended lifespans and studies involving resistance to stress. In addition, caloric restriction (CR) and stress resistance are briefly addressed for comparison with genetically altered mice. Although many of the long-living mice have GH/IGF-1/insulin signaling-related alterations and enhanced stress resistance, there are some that exhibit life extension without an obvious link to this hormone pathway. Resistance to oxidative stress is by far the most common system studied in long-living mice, but there is evidence of enhancement of resistance in other systems as well. The differences in stress resistance between long-living mutant and normal mice result from complex interrelationships among pathways that appear to coordinate signals of growth and metabolism, and subsequently result in differences in lifespan.
PMCID: PMC2464727  PMID: 19943136
mutant mice; lifespan; oxidative stress; hormesis
5.  Identification of longevity-associated genes in long-lived Snell and Ames dwarf mice 
Age  2006;28(2):125-144.
Recent landmark molecular genetic studies have identified an evolutionarily conserved insulin/IGF-1 signal transduction pathway that regulates lifespan. In C. elegans, Drosophila, and rodents, attenuated insulin/IGF-1 signaling appears to regulate lifespan and enhance resistance to environmental stress. The Ames (Prop1df/df) and Snell (Pit1dw/dw) hypopituitary dwarf mice with growth hormone (GH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and prolactin deficiencies live 40–60% longer than control mice. Both mutants are resistant to multiple forms of environmental stress in vitro. Taken collectively, these genetic models indicate that diminished insulin/IGF-l signaling may play a central role in the determination of mammalian lifespan by conferring resistance to exogenous and endogenous stressors. These pleiotropic endocrine pathways control diverse programs of gene expression that appear to orchestrate the development of a biological phenotype that promotes longevity. With the ability to investigate thousands of genes simultaneously, several microarray surveys have identified potential longevity assurance genes and provided information on the mechanism(s) by which the dwarf genotypes (dw/dw) and (df/df), and caloric restriction may lead to longevity. We propose that a comparison of specific changes in gene expression shared between Snell and Ames dwarf mice may provide a deeper understanding of the transcriptional mechanisms of longevity determination. Furthermore, we propose that a comparison of the physiological consequences of the Pit1dw and Prop1df mutations may reveal transcriptional profiles similar to those reported for the C. elegans and Drosophila mutants. In this study we have identified classes of genes whose expression is similarly affected in both Snell and Ames dwarf mice. Our comparative microarray data suggest that specific detoxification enzymes of the P450 (CYP) family as well as oxidative and steroid metabolism may play a key role in longevity assurance of the Snell and Ames dwarf mouse mutants. We propose that the altered expression of these genes defines a biochemical phenotype which may promote longevity in Snell and Ames dwarf mice.
PMCID: PMC2464723  PMID: 19943135
Aging; Ames Dwarf; Detoxification; Metabolism; P450; PPAR; ROS; Snell Dwarf; Steriod
6.  A Microarray-Based Genetic Screen for Yeast Chronological Aging Factors 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(4):e1000921.
Model organisms have played an important role in the elucidation of multiple genes and cellular processes that regulate aging. In this study we utilized the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in a large-scale screen for genes that function in the regulation of chronological lifespan, which is defined by the number of days that non-dividing cells remain viable. A pooled collection of viable haploid gene deletion mutants, each tagged with unique identifying DNA “bar-code” sequences was chronologically aged in liquid culture. Viable mutants in the aging population were selected at several time points and then detected using a microarray DNA hybridization technique that quantifies abundance of the barcode tags. Multiple short- and long-lived mutants were identified using this approach. Among the confirmed short-lived mutants were those defective for autophagy, indicating a key requirement for the recycling of cellular organelles in longevity. Defects in autophagy also prevented lifespan extension induced by limitation of amino acids in the growth media. Among the confirmed long-lived mutants were those defective in the highly conserved de novo purine biosynthesis pathway (the ADE genes), which ultimately produces IMP and AMP. Blocking this pathway extended lifespan to the same degree as calorie (glucose) restriction. A recently discovered cell-extrinsic mechanism of chronological aging involving acetic acid secretion and toxicity was suppressed in a long-lived ade4Δ mutant and exacerbated by a short-lived atg16Δ autophagy mutant. The identification of multiple novel effectors of yeast chronological lifespan will greatly aid in the elucidation of mechanisms that cells and organisms utilize in slowing down the aging process.
Author Summary
The aging process is associated with the onset of several age-associated diseases including diabetes and cancer. In rodent model systems, the dietary regimen known as caloric restriction (CR) is known to delay or prevent these diseases and to extend lifespan. As a result, there is a great deal of interest in understanding the mechanisms by which CR functions. The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, has proven to be an effective model for the analysis of genes and cellular pathways that contribute to the regulation of aging. In this study we have performed a microarray-based genetic screen in yeast that identified short- and long-lived mutants from a population that contained each of the viable haploid gene deletion mutants from the yeast gene knockout collection that were pooled together. Using such an approach, we were able to identify genes from several pathways that had not been previously implicated in aging, including some that appear to contribute to the CR effect induced by restriction of either amino acids or sugar. These results are expected to provide new groundwork for future mechanistic aging studies in more complex organisms.
PMCID: PMC2858703  PMID: 20421943
7.  Gene expression profiling of long-lived dwarf mice: longevity-associated genes and relationships with diet, gender and aging 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:353.
Long-lived strains of dwarf mice carry mutations that suppress growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) signaling. The downstream effects of these endocrine abnormalities, however, are not well understood and it is unclear how these processes interact with aging mechanisms. This study presents a comparative analysis of microarray experiments that have measured hepatic gene expression levels in long-lived strains carrying one of four mutations (Prop1df/df, Pit1dw/dw, Ghrhrlit/lit, GHR-KO) and describes how the effects of these mutations relate to one another at the transcriptional level. Points of overlap with the effects of calorie restriction (CR), CR mimetic compounds, low fat diets, gender dimorphism and aging were also examined.
All dwarf mutations had larger and more consistent effects on IGF-I expression than dietary treatments. In comparison to dwarf mutations, however, the transcriptional effects of CR (and some CR mimetics) overlapped more strongly with those of aging. Surprisingly, the Ghrhrlit/lit mutation had much larger effects on gene expression than the GHR-KO mutation, even though both mutations affect the same endocrine pathway. Several genes potentially regulated or co-regulated with the IGF-I transcript in liver tissue were identified, including a DNA repair gene (Snm1) that is upregulated in proportion to IGF-I inhibition. A total of 13 genes exhibiting parallel differential expression patterns among all four strains of long-lived dwarf mice were identified, in addition to 30 genes with matching differential expression patterns in multiple long-lived dwarf strains and under CR.
Comparative analysis of microarray datasets can identify patterns and consistencies not discernable from any one dataset individually. This study implements new analytical approaches to provide a detailed comparison among the effects of life-extending mutations, dietary treatments, gender and aging. This comparison provides insight into a broad range of issues relevant to the study of mammalian aging. In this context, 43 longevity-associated genes are identified and individual genes with the highest level of support among all microarray experiments are highlighted. These results provide promising targets for future experimental investigation as well as potential clues for understanding the functional basis of lifespan extension in mammalian systems.
PMCID: PMC2094713  PMID: 17915019
8.  Metabolic characteristics of long-lived mice 
Frontiers in Genetics  2012;3:288.
Genetic suppression of insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling (IIS) can extend longevity in worms, insects, and mammals. In laboratory mice, mutations with the greatest, most consistent, and best documented positive impact on lifespan are those that disrupt growth hormone (GH) release or actions. These mutations lead to major alterations in IIS but also have a variety of effects that are not directly related to the actions of insulin or insulin-like growth factor I. Long-lived GH-resistant GHR-KO mice with targeted disruption of the GH receptor gene, as well as Ames dwarf (Prop1df) and Snell dwarf (Pit1dw) mice lacking GH (along with prolactin and TSH), are diminutive in size and have major alterations in body composition and metabolic parameters including increased subcutaneous adiposity, increased relative brain weight, small liver, hypoinsulinemia, mild hypoglycemia, increased adiponectin levels and insulin sensitivity, and reduced serum lipids. Body temperature is reduced in Ames, Snell, and female GHR-KO mice. Indirect calorimetry revealed that both Ames dwarf and GHR-KO mice utilize more oxygen per gram (g) of body weight than sex- and age-matched normal animals from the same strain. They also have reduced respiratory quotient, implying greater reliance on fats, as opposed to carbohydrates, as an energy source. Differences in oxygen consumption (VO2) were seen in animals fed or fasted during the measurements as well as in animals that had been exposed to 30% calorie restriction or every-other-day feeding. However, at the thermoneutral temperature of 30°C, VO2 did not differ between GHR-KO and normal mice. Thus, the increased metabolic rate of the GHR-KO mice, at a standard animal room temperature of 23°C, is apparently related to increased energy demands for thermoregulation in these diminutive animals. We suspect that increased oxidative metabolism combined with enhanced fatty acid oxidation contribute to the extended longevity of GHR-KO mice.
PMCID: PMC3521393  PMID: 23248643
growth hormone; aging; calorie restriction; dwarf mice; metabolism
9.  Stress resistance and aging: Influence of genes and nutrition 
Previous studies have shown that dermal fibroblast cell lines derived from young adult mice of the long-lived Snell dwarf (dw/dw), Ames dwarf (df/df) and growth hormone receptor knockout (GHR-KO) mouse stocks are resistant, in vitro, to the cytotoxic effects of hydrogen peroxide, cadmium, ultraviolet light, paraquat, and heat. Here we show that, in contrast, fibroblasts from mice on low-calorie (CR) or low methionine (Meth-R) diets are not stress resistant in culture, despite the longevity induced by both dietary regimes. A second approach, involving induction of liver cell death in live animals using acetaminophen (APAP), documented hepatotoxin resistance in the CR and Meth-R mice, but dw/dw and GHR-KO mutant mice were not resistant to this agent, and were in fact more susceptible than littermate controls to the toxic effects of APAP. These data thus suggest that while resistance to stress is a common characteristic of experimental life span extension in mice, the cell types showing resistance may differ among the various models of delayed or decelerated aging.
PMCID: PMC2923407  PMID: 16713617
Stress resistance; Caloric restriction; Methionine restriction; Snell dwarf; Growth hormone receptor knockout
10.  Life Span Extension by Calorie Restriction Depends on Rim15 and Transcription Factors Downstream of Ras/PKA, Tor, and Sch9 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(1):e13.
Calorie restriction (CR), the only non-genetic intervention known to slow aging and extend life span in organisms ranging from yeast to mice, has been linked to the down-regulation of Tor, Akt, and Ras signaling. In this study, we demonstrate that the serine/threonine kinase Rim15 is required for yeast chronological life span extension caused by deficiencies in Ras2, Tor1, and Sch9, and by calorie restriction. Deletion of stress resistance transcription factors Gis1 and Msn2/4, which are positively regulated by Rim15, also caused a major although not complete reversion of the effect of calorie restriction on life span. The deletion of both RAS2 and the Akt and S6 kinase homolog SCH9 in combination with calorie restriction caused a remarkable 10-fold life span extension, which, surprisingly, was only partially reversed by the lack of Rim15. These results indicate that the Ras/cAMP/PKA/Rim15/Msn2/4 and the Tor/Sch9/Rim15/Gis1 pathways are major mediators of the calorie restriction-dependent stress resistance and life span extension, although additional mediators are involved. Notably, the anti-aging effect caused by the inactivation of both pathways is much more potent than that caused by CR.
Author Summary
Reduction in calorie intake is a well-established intervention that extends the life span of a variety of biological model organisms studied. Calorie restriction also delays and attenuates age-related changes in primates, although its longevity-promoting effect has not been demonstrated. Here, we utilized a single cell organism, baker's yeast, to examine the role of evolutionarily conserved genes in life span regulation and their involvement in calorie restriction. The yeast mutants lacking Ras2, Tor1, or Sch9 are long-lived. The anti-aging effect observed in these mutants depends on the protein Rim15 and several key regulators of gene expression that are essential in inducing cellular protection under stress. The beneficial effects of calorie restriction are much smaller in yeast that are missing these proteins, indicating their essential role in promoting longevity. Our study also showed that by combining the genetic manipulation and calorie restriction intervention, yeast can reach a life span ten times that of those grown under standard conditions. This extreme longevity requires Rim15 and also depends on other yet-to-be identified mechanisms. Our findings provided new leads that may help to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the anti-aging effect of calorie restriction in mammals.
PMCID: PMC2213705  PMID: 18225956
11.  The starvation hormone, fibroblast growth factor-21, extends lifespan in mice 
eLife  2012;1:e00065.
Fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) is a hormone secreted by the liver during fasting that elicits diverse aspects of the adaptive starvation response. Among its effects, FGF21 induces hepatic fatty acid oxidation and ketogenesis, increases insulin sensitivity, blocks somatic growth and causes bone loss. Here we show that transgenic overexpression of FGF21 markedly extends lifespan in mice without reducing food intake or affecting markers of NAD+ metabolism or AMP kinase and mTOR signaling. Transcriptomic analysis suggests that FGF21 acts primarily by blunting the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling pathway in liver. These findings raise the possibility that FGF21 can be used to extend lifespan in other species.
eLife digest
In 1934, in a famous experiment at Cornell University, it was discovered that laboratory mice could live twice as long as expected if they were fed a low-calorie diet that included enough nutrients to avoid malnutrition. This phenomenon has since been observed in species ranging from worms to primates, but not in humans. Reducing calorie intake leads to longer lives by modifying a number of the biochemical pathways that sense nutrients, including pathways that involve insulin and various other biomolecules. Chemical and genetic methods can also increase longevity by modifying these pathways, which suggests that it might be possible to develop drugs that can increase lifespan without reducing calorie intake.
Mice, humans and other creatures respond to prolonged fasting through a number of adaptive changes that include mobilizing and burning fatty acids. The liver has an important role in this response, secreting a hormone called fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) that coordinates these processes among tissues. Previous experiments on transgenic mice with high levels of this hormone have shown that it suppresses the activity of growth hormone and reduces the production of insulin-like growth factor, which prevents growth and can lead to hibernation-like behavior.
Here Zhang et al. compare groups of wild-type mice and transgenic mice with high levels of FGF21. They find that the transgenic mice have a longer median survival time than wild-type mice (38 months vs 28 months), and that the transgenic female mice on average live for 4 months longer than their male counterparts. However, unlike in other examples of increased longevity, they find that decreased food intake is not required. Instead, they find that transgenic mice eat more food than wild-type mice, yet remain profoundly insulin-sensitive. The results suggest that the longer survival times are caused by a reduction in the production of insulin-like growth factor, but they also suggest that the mechanism responsible for the increased longevity is independent of the three pathways that are usually associated with such increases. Further research is needed to understand this mechanism in greater detail and could, perhaps, pave the way for the use of FGF21-based hormone therapy to extend lifespan without the need for a low-calorie diet.
PMCID: PMC3466591  PMID: 23066506
longevity; fibroblast growth factor; growth hormone; liver; caloric restriction; Mouse
12.  Tor1/Sch9-Regulated Carbon Source Substitution Is as Effective as Calorie Restriction in Life Span Extension 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(5):e1000467.
The effect of calorie restriction (CR) on life span extension, demonstrated in organisms ranging from yeast to mice, may involve the down-regulation of pathways, including Tor, Akt, and Ras. Here, we present data suggesting that yeast Tor1 and Sch9 (a homolog of the mammalian kinases Akt and S6K) is a central component of a network that controls a common set of genes implicated in a metabolic switch from the TCA cycle and respiration to glycolysis and glycerol biosynthesis. During chronological survival, mutants lacking SCH9 depleted extracellular ethanol and reduced stored lipids, but synthesized and released glycerol. Deletion of the glycerol biosynthesis genes GPD1, GPD2, or RHR2, among the most up-regulated in long-lived sch9Δ, tor1Δ, and ras2Δ mutants, was sufficient to reverse chronological life span extension in sch9Δ mutants, suggesting that glycerol production, in addition to the regulation of stress resistance systems, optimizes life span extension. Glycerol, unlike glucose or ethanol, did not adversely affect the life span extension induced by calorie restriction or starvation, suggesting that carbon source substitution may represent an alternative to calorie restriction as a strategy to delay aging.
Author Summary
Studies using model organisms have pointed to the existence of evolutionarily conserved genes and signaling pathways that regulates life span. Changes in the activity of these genes/pathways have also been implicated in mediating the beneficial effect of calorie restriction, a well-recognized intervention that extends the life span from yeast to mammals. We investigated the global gene expression changes and identified genes involved in the metabolism of various kinds of carbon sources that are associated with longevity in the single cell organism, the baker's yeast. Although glucose and ethanol are common carbon sources for growth, they also have detrimental pro-aging effects in yeast. Long-lived yeast mutants actively utilize available glucose and ethanol and produce glycerol, which does not adversely affect the yeast life span extension. Our finding suggest that this “carbon source substitution” observed in long-lived yeast creates an environment mimicking calorie restriction, which together with the direct regulation of stress resistance systems optimizes life span extension. Findings using these simple genetic models will help to elucidate fundamental longevity regulatory mechanisms and identify similar pathways in mammals.
PMCID: PMC2669710  PMID: 19424415
13.  Neuroendocrine inhibition of glucose production and resistance to cancer in dwarf mice 
Experimental gerontology  2008;44(1-2):26-33.
Pit1 null (Snell dwarf) and Proph1 null (Ames dwarf) mutant mice lack GH, PRL and TSH. Snell and Ames dwarf mice also exhibit reduced IGF-I, resistance to cancer and a longer lifespan than control mice. Endogenous glucose production during fasting is reduced in Snell dwarf mice compared to fasting control mice. In view of cancer cell dependence on glucose for energy, low endogenous glucose production may provide Snell dwarf mice with resistance to cancer. We investigated whether endogenous glucose production is lower in Snell dwarf mice during feeding. Inhibition of endogenous glucose production by glucose injection was enhanced in 12 to 14 month-old female Snell dwarf mice. Thus, we hypothesize that lower endogenous glucose production during feeding and fasting reduces cancer cell glucose utilization providing Snell dwarf mice with resistance to cancer. The elevation of circulating adiponectin, a hormone produced by adipose tissue, may contribute to the suppression of endogenous glucose production in 12 to 14 month-old Snell dwarf mice. We compared the incidence of cancer at time of death between old Snell dwarf and control mice. Only 18% of old Snell dwarf mice had malignant lesions at the time of death compared to 82% of control mice. The median ages at death for old Snell dwarf and control mice were 33 and 26 months, respectively. By contrast, previous studies showed a high incidence of cancer in old Ames dwarf mice at the time of death. Hence, resistance to cancer in old Snell dwarf mice may be mediated by neuroendocrine factors that reduce glucose utilization besides elevated adiponectin, reduced IGF-I and a lack of GH, PRL and TSH, seen in both Snell and Ames dwarf mice. Proteomics analysis of pituitary secretions from Snell dwarf mice confirmed the absence of GH and PRL, the secretion of ACTH and elevated secretion of Chromogranin B and Secretogranin II. Radioimmune assays confirmed that circulating Chromogranin B and Secretogranin II were elevated in 12 to 14 month-old Snell dwarf mice. In summary, our results in Snell dwarf mice suggest that the pituitary gland and adipose tissue are part of a neuroendocrine loop that lowers the risk of cancer during aging by reducing the availability of glucose.
PMCID: PMC2872123  PMID: 18582556
Glucose; Cancer; Adiponectin; Growth hormone; Dwarf mice; Pituitary; Chromogranins
14.  Adaptive Stress Response in Segmental Progeria Resembles Long-Lived Dwarfism and Calorie Restriction in Mice 
PLoS Genetics  2006;2(12):e192.
How congenital defects causing genome instability can result in the pleiotropic symptoms reminiscent of aging but in a segmental and accelerated fashion remains largely unknown. Most segmental progerias are associated with accelerated fibroblast senescence, suggesting that cellular senescence is a likely contributing mechanism. Contrary to expectations, neither accelerated senescence nor acute oxidative stress hypersensitivity was detected in primary fibroblast or erythroblast cultures from multiple progeroid mouse models for defects in the nucleotide excision DNA repair pathway, which share premature aging features including postnatal growth retardation, cerebellar ataxia, and death before weaning. Instead, we report a prominent phenotypic overlap with long-lived dwarfism and calorie restriction during postnatal development (2 wk of age), including reduced size, reduced body temperature, hypoglycemia, and perturbation of the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor 1 neuroendocrine axis. These symptoms were also present at 2 wk of age in a novel progeroid nucleotide excision repair-deficient mouse model (XPDG602D/R722W/XPA−/−) that survived weaning with high penetrance. However, despite persistent cachectic dwarfism, blood glucose and serum insulin-like growth factor 1 levels returned to normal by 10 wk, with hypoglycemia reappearing near premature death at 5 mo of age. These data strongly suggest changes in energy metabolism as part of an adaptive response during the stressful period of postnatal growth. Interestingly, a similar perturbation of the postnatal growth axis was not detected in another progeroid mouse model, the double-strand DNA break repair deficient Ku80−/− mouse. Specific (but not all) types of genome instability may thus engage a conserved response to stress that evolved to cope with environmental pressures such as food shortage.
Oxidative damage to cellular components, including fats, proteins, and DNA, is an inevitable consequence of cellular energy use and may underlie both normal and pathological aging. Calorie restriction delays the aging process and extends lifespan in a number of lower organisms including rodents. Inborn defects in the postnatal growth axis resulting in dwarfism can also extend lifespan. Both may function via overlapping pathways impacting on energy metabolism. Here, we report a novel DNA repair-deficient mouse model with symptoms of the related premature aging disorders Cockayne syndrome and trichothiodystrophy, namely reduced fat deposits, neurological dysfunction, failure to thrive, and reduced lifespan. Surprisingly, we also observed traits usually associated with extended longevity as found in calorie restriction and dwarfism, including reduced blood sugar and reduced insulin-like growth factor-1. These characteristics were present at 2 wk of age, that is, during the period of rapid postnatal development, but returned to normal by sexual maturation at 10 wk. Furthermore, they were absent altogether in another premature aging mouse model with a distinct DNA repair defect. Specific types of unrepaired DNA damage may thus elicit a preservative organismal response affecting energy metabolism that is similar to the one that evolved to cope with the stress of food shortage.
PMCID: PMC1698946  PMID: 17173483
15.  Delayed and Accelerated Aging Share Common Longevity Assurance Mechanisms 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(8):e1000161.
Mutant dwarf and calorie-restricted mice benefit from healthy aging and unusually long lifespan. In contrast, mouse models for DNA repair-deficient progeroid syndromes age and die prematurely. To identify mechanisms that regulate mammalian longevity, we quantified the parallels between the genome-wide liver expression profiles of mice with those two extremes of lifespan. Contrary to expectation, we find significant, genome-wide expression associations between the progeroid and long-lived mice. Subsequent analysis of significantly over-represented biological processes revealed suppression of the endocrine and energy pathways with increased stress responses in both delayed and premature aging. To test the relevance of these processes in natural aging, we compared the transcriptomes of liver, lung, kidney, and spleen over the entire murine adult lifespan and subsequently confirmed these findings on an independent aging cohort. The majority of genes showed similar expression changes in all four organs, indicating a systemic transcriptional response with aging. This systemic response included the same biological processes that are triggered in progeroid and long-lived mice. However, on a genome-wide scale, transcriptomes of naturally aged mice showed a strong association to progeroid but not to long-lived mice. Thus, endocrine and metabolic changes are indicative of “survival” responses to genotoxic stress or starvation, whereas genome-wide associations in gene expression with natural aging are indicative of biological age, which may thus delineate pro- and anti-aging effects of treatments aimed at health-span extension.
Author Summary
To identify mechanisms that regulate mammalian longevity, we have quantified the expression parallels of a number of long-lived mice that show delayed aging and DNA repair mutants that age and die prematurely. Unexpectedly, we found significant, genome-wide similarities and a widespread overlap of over-represented biological processes in the transcriptomes of these disparate mouse strains. Subsequent analysis revealed that similar responses are triggered constitutively in a number of organs in aged mice. Thus, both intrinsic and environmental stressors (e.g., aging, genome instability, or food shortage) induce survival responses aimed at overcoming crisis and extending lifespan. Such survival responses are likely to allow assessment of biological age as well as provide valuable targets for therapies aimed at health-span extension.
PMCID: PMC2493043  PMID: 18704162
16.  Long-lived Snell dwarf mice display increased proteostatic mechanisms that are not dependent on decreased mTORC1 activity 
Aging Cell  2015;14(3):474-482.
Maintaining proteostasis is thought to be a key factor in slowed aging. In several growth-restricted models of long-life, we have shown evidence of increased proteostatic mechanisms, suggesting that proteostasis may be a shared characteristic of slowed aging. The Snell dwarf mouse is generated through the mutation of the Pit-1 locus causing reductions in multiple hormonal growth factors and mTORC1 signaling. Snell dwarfs are one of the longest lived rodent models of slowed aging. We hypothesized that proteostatic mechanisms would be increased in Snell compared to control (Con) as in other models of slowed aging. Using D2O, we simultaneously assessed protein synthesis in multiple subcellular fractions along with DNA synthesis in skeletal muscle, heart, and liver over 2 weeks in both sexes. We also assessed mTORC1-substrate phosphorylation. Skeletal muscle protein synthesis was decreased in all protein fractions of Snell compared to Con, varied by fraction in heart, and was not different between groups in liver. DNA synthesis was lower in Snell skeletal muscle and heart but not in liver when compared to Con. The new protein to new DNA synthesis ratio was increased threefold in Snell skeletal muscle and heart compared to Con. Snell mTORC1-substrate phosphorylation was decreased only in heart and liver. No effect of sex was seen in this study. Together with our previous investigations in long-lived models, we provide evidence further supporting proteostasis as a shared characteristic of slowed aging and show that increased proteostatic mechanisms may not necessarily require a decrease in mTORC1.
PMCID: PMC4406676  PMID: 25720574
DNA synthesis; long-lived model; protein synthesis; proteostasis; stable isotope
17.  Calorie Restriction Increases Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Healthy Humans 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e76.
Caloric restriction without malnutrition extends life span in a range of organisms including insects and mammals and lowers free radical production by the mitochondria. However, the mechanism responsible for this adaptation are poorly understood.
Methods and Findings
The current study was undertaken to examine muscle mitochondrial bioenergetics in response to caloric restriction alone or in combination with exercise in 36 young (36.8 ± 1.0 y), overweight (body mass index, 27.8 ± 0.7 kg/m2) individuals randomized into one of three groups for a 6-mo intervention: Control, 100% of energy requirements; CR, 25% caloric restriction; and CREX, caloric restriction with exercise (CREX), 12.5% CR + 12.5% increased energy expenditure (EE). In the controls, 24-h EE was unchanged, but in CR and CREX it was significantly reduced from baseline even after adjustment for the loss of metabolic mass (CR, −135 ± 42 kcal/d, p = 0.002 and CREX, −117 ± 52 kcal/d, p = 0.008). Participants in the CR and CREX groups had increased expression of genes encoding proteins involved in mitochondrial function such as PPARGC1A, TFAM, eNOS, SIRT1, and PARL (all, p < 0.05). In parallel, mitochondrial DNA content increased by 35% ± 5% in the CR group (p = 0.005) and 21% ± 4% in the CREX group (p < 0.004), with no change in the control group (2% ± 2%). However, the activity of key mitochondrial enzymes of the TCA (tricarboxylic acid) cycle (citrate synthase), beta-oxidation (beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase), and electron transport chain (cytochrome C oxidase II) was unchanged. DNA damage was reduced from baseline in the CR (−0.56 ± 0.11 arbitrary units, p = 0.003) and CREX (−0.45 ± 0.12 arbitrary units, p = 0.011), but not in the controls. In primary cultures of human myotubes, a nitric oxide donor (mimicking eNOS signaling) induced mitochondrial biogenesis but failed to induce SIRT1 protein expression, suggesting that additional factors may regulate SIRT1 content during CR.
The observed increase in muscle mitochondrial DNA in association with a decrease in whole body oxygen consumption and DNA damage suggests that caloric restriction improves mitochondrial function in young non-obese adults.
Anthony Civitarese and colleagues observed an increase in mitochondrial DNA in muscle and a decrease in whole body oxygen consumption in healthy adults who underwent caloric restriction.
Editors' Summary
Life expectancy (the average life span) greatly increased during the 20th century in most countries, largely due to improved hygiene, nutrition, and health care. One possible approach to further increase human life span is “caloric restriction.” A calorie-restricted diet provides all the nutrients necessary for a healthy life but minimizes the energy (calories) supplied in the diet. This type of diet increases the life span of mice and delays the onset of age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. There are also hints that people who eat a calorie-restricted diet might live longer than those who overeat. People living in Okinawa, Japan, have a lower energy intake than the rest of the Japanese population and an extremely long life span. In addition, calorie-restricted diets beneficially affect several biomarkers of aging, including decreased insulin sensitivity (a precursor to diabetes). But how might caloric restriction slow aging? A major factor in the age-related decline of bodily functions is the accumulation of “oxidative damage” in the body's proteins, fats, and DNA. Oxidants—in particular, chemicals called “free radicals”—are produced when food is converted to energy by cellular structures called mitochondria. One theory for how caloric restriction slows aging is that it lowers free-radical production by inducing the formation of efficient mitochondria.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite hints that caloric restriction might have similar effects in people as in rodents, there have been few well-controlled studies on the effect of good quality calorie-reduced diets in healthy people. It is also unknown whether an energy deficit produced by increasing physical activity while eating the same amount of food has the same effects as caloric restriction. Finally, it is unclear how caloric restriction alters mitochondrial function. The Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) organization is investigating the effect of caloric restriction interventions on physiology, body composition, and risk factors for age-related diseases. In this study, the researchers have tested the hypothesis that short-term caloric deficit (with or without exercise) increases the efficiency of mitochondria in human muscle.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 36 healthy overweight but non-obese young people into their study. One-third of them received 100% of their energy requirements in their diet; the caloric restriction (CR) group had their calorie intake reduced by 25%; and the caloric restriction plus exercise (CREX) group had their calorie intake reduced by 12.5% and their energy expenditure increased by 12.5%. The researchers found that a 25% caloric deficit for six months, achieved by diet alone or by diet plus exercise, decreased 24-hour whole body energy expenditure (i.e., overall calories burned for body function), which suggests improved mitochondrial function. Their analysis of genes involved in mitochondria formation indicated that CR and CREX both increased the number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle. Both interventions also reduced the amount of DNA damage—a marker of oxidative stress—in the participants' muscles.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results indicate that a short-term caloric deficit, whether achieved by diet or by diet plus exercise, induces the formation of “efficient mitochondria” in people just as in rodents. The induction of these efficient mitochondria in turn reduces oxidative damage in skeletal muscles. Consequently, this adaptive response to caloric restriction might have the potential to slow aging and increase longevity in humans as in other animals. However, this six-month study obviously provides no direct evidence for this, and, by analogy with studies in rodents, an increase in longevity might require lifelong caloric restriction. The results here suggest that even short-term caloric restriction can produce beneficial physiological changes, but more research is necessary before it becomes clear whether caloric restriction should be recommended to healthy individuals.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The CALERIE (Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy) Web site contains information on the study and how to participate
American Federation for Aging Research includes information on aging with pages on the biology of aging and on caloric restriction
The Okinawa Centenarian Study is a population-based study on long-lived elderly people in Okinawa, Japan
US Government information on nutrition
MedlinePlus encyclopedia pages on diet and calories
The Calorie Restriction Society, a nonprofit organization that provides information on life span and caloric restriction
Wikipedia pages on calorie restriction and on mitochondria (note: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1808482  PMID: 17341128
18.  Longevity effect of IGF-1R+/− mutation depends on genetic background-specific receptor activation 
Aging Cell  2013;13(1):19-28.
Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling regulates lifespan in mice. The modulating effects of genetic background gained much attention because it was shown that life-prolonging effects in Snell dwarf and GH receptor knockout vary between mouse strains. We previously reported that heterozygous IGF-1R inactivation (IGF-1R+/−) extends lifespan in female mice on 129/SvPas background, but it remained unclear whether this mutation produces a similar effect in other genetic backgrounds and which molecules possibly modify this effect. Here, we measured the life-prolonging effect of IGF-1R+/− mutation in C57BL/6J background and investigated the role of insulin/IGF signaling molecules in strain-dependent differences. We found significant lifespan extension in female IGF-1R+/− mutants on C57BL/6J background, but the effect was smaller than in 129/SvPas, suggesting strain-specific penetrance of longevity phenotypes. Comparing GH/IGF pathways between wild-type 129/SvPas and C57BL/6J mice, we found that circulating IGF-I and activation of IGF-1R, IRS-1, and IRS-2 were markedly elevated in 129/SvPas, while activation of IGF pathways was constitutively low in spontaneously long-lived C57BL/6J mice. Importantly, we demonstrated that loss of one IGF-1R allele diminished the level of activated IGF-1R and IRS more profoundly and triggered stronger endocrine feedback in 129/SvPas background than in C57BL/6J. We also revealed that acute oxidative stress entails robust IGF-1R pathway activation, which could account for the fact that IGF-1R+/− stress resistance phenotypes are fully penetrant in both backgrounds. Together, these results provide a possible explanation why IGF-1R+/− was less efficient in extending lifespan in C57BL/6J compared with 129/SvPas.
PMCID: PMC4326867  PMID: 23898955
Genetic background; gene knockout; IGF-I; IRS; lifespan; stress resistance
19.  Reduced Incidence and Delayed Occurrence of Fatal Neoplastic Diseases in Growth Hormone Receptor/Binding Protein Knockout Mice 
Although studies of Ames and Snell dwarf mice have suggested possible important roles of the growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) axis in aging and age-related diseases, the results cannot rule out the possibility of other hormonal changes playing an important role in the life extension exhibited by these dwarf mice. Therefore, growth hormone receptor/binding protein (GHR/BP) knockout (KO) mice would be valuable animals to directly assess the roles of somatotropic axis in aging and age-related diseases because the primary hormonal change is due to GH/IGF-1 deficiency. Our pathological findings showed GHR/BP KO mice to have a lower incidence and delayed occurrence of fatal neoplastic lesions compared with their wild-type littermates. These changes of fatal neoplasms are similar to the effects observed with calorie restriction and therefore could possibly be a major contributing factor to the extended life span observed in the GHR/BP KO mice.
PMCID: PMC2667132  PMID: 19228785
Growth hormone receptor/binding protein; Knockout mouse; Neoplastic disease; Aging
The long-lived growth hormone (GH) receptor knockout (GHRKO; KO) mice are GH resistant due to targeted disruption of the GH receptor (Ghr) gene. Apoptosis is a physiological process in which cells play an active role in their own death and is a normal component of the development and health of multicellular organisms. Aging is associated with the progressive loss of strength of skeletal and heart muscles. Calorie restriction (CR) is a well known experimental model to delay aging and increase lifespan. The aim of the study was to examine the expression of the following apoptosis-related genes: caspase-3, caspase-9, caspase-8, bax, bcl-2, Smac/DIABLO, p53 and cytochrome c1 (cyc1) in the skeletal muscles and hearts of female normal and GHRKO mice, fed ad libitum or subjected to 40% CR for 6 months, starting at 2 months of age. Moreover, skeletal muscle caspase-3, caspase-9, caspase-8, bax, bcl-2, Smac/DIABLO, Apaf-1, bad, phospho-bad (pbad), phospho-p53 (pp53) and cytochrome c (cyc) protein expression levels were assessed.
Expression of caspase-3, caspase-9, bax and Smac/DIABLO genes and proteins was decreased in GHRKO’s skeletal muscles. The Apaf-1 protein expression also was diminished in this tissue. In contrast, bcl-2 and pbad protein levels were increased in skeletal muscles in knockouts. No changes were demonstrated for the examined genes expression in GHRKO’s hearts except for the increased level of cyc1 mRNA. CR did not alter the expression of the examined genes and proteins in skeletal muscles of knockouts vs. normal (N) mice. In heart homogenates, CR increased caspase-3 mRNA level as compared to ad libitum (AL) mice.
decreased expression of certain pro-apoptotic genes and/or proteins may constitute the potential mechanism of prolonged longevity in GHRKO mice, protecting these animals from aging; this potential beneficial mechanism is not affected by calorie restriction.
PMCID: PMC3703836  PMID: 21321312
21.  Decreased thyroid follicle size in dwarf mice may suggest the role of growth hormone signaling in thyroid growth regulation 
Thyroid Research  2012;5:7.
Altered somatotrophic signaling is among the most important potential mechanisms of extended longevity. Ames dwarf (df/df) mice are homozygous for mutation at the Prop-1 gene, leading to a lack of growth hormone (GH), prolactin and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Mice homozygous for targeted disruption of the growth hormone receptor/growth hormone binding protein gene are known as GH receptor knockout (GHRKO) mice or “Laron dwarf”. Both, df/df and GHRKO mice, are characterized by reduced body size, low plasma insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), remarkably extended longevity, and severe (in df/df mice) or mild (in GHRKO mice) thyroid hypofunction. Recently, by crossing df/df and GHRKO mice, double-mutant Ames dwarf/GHRKO (df/KO) mice were created. Interestingly, these mice are smaller than Ames dwarfs or GHRKOs, and also have reduced insulin and IGF-I levels. The aim of the study was to investigate if and to what extent certain thyroid morphological parameters, such as inner follicular surface area, inner follicular perimeter, as well as the follicular epithelium thickness are changed in the examined dwarf mice.
This quantification was performed in thyroids collected from df/df, GHRKO and df/KO female mice, at approximately 5–6 months of age. We used a computerized plotting programme that combines a live microscopic image of the slide with an operator-generated overlay.
Inner follicular surface area and inner follicular perimeter were decreased in all examined kinds of dwarf mice as compared to normal animals. Furthermore, decreases in these two parameters were more pronounced in df/df and df/KO than in GHRKO mice. Concerning the follicular epithelium thickness, only a tendency towards decrease of this parameter was found in all three kinds of dwarf mice.
Parameters characterizing thyroid follicle size are decreased in all three examined models of dwarf mice, which may explain decreased thyroid hormone levels in both basal mutants (Ames dwarfs and GHRKOs). df/df mutation seems to predominate over GHRKO genetic intervention concerning their effects on thyroid growth. Beside TSH, also GH signaling seems to constitute a crucial element in the regulation of thyroid growth and, possibly, function.
PMCID: PMC3464137  PMID: 22897932
Ames dwarf mice; GHRKO mice; Thyroid follicle; Inner follicular surface area; Inner follicular perimeter; Follicular epithelium thickness
22.  Fibroblasts from Long-Lived Mutant Mice Show Diminished ERK1/2 Phosphorylation But Exaggerated Induction of Immediate Early Genes 
Free radical biology & medicine  2009;47(12):1753-1761.
Skin-derived fibroblasts from long-lived mutant mice, including the Snell dwarf mice and mice defective in growth hormone receptor (“GHRKO”), are resistant to death induced by oxidative stresses or by UV light, but the molecular mechanism for their stress resistance is unknown. The present study showed that phosphorylation of the stress-activated protein kinases ERK1/2 induced by peroxide, cadmium, or paraquat was attenuated in cells from these mice. Induction of ERK phosphorylation by UV light was not altered in the Snell dwarf cells, and neither JNK nor p38 kinases showed increased phosphorylation in response to any of the stresses tested. Surprisingly, stress-induced elevation of mRNA for certain Immediate Early Genes (egr-1 and fos) was higher in Snell-derived cells than in control cells, despite the evidence of lower ERK phosphorylation. Thus cells from Snell dwarf mice differ from controls in two ways: (a) lower induction of ERK1/2 phosphorylation, and (b) increased expression of some ERK-dependent IEGs. These alterations in kinase pathways may contribute to the resistance of these cells to lethal injury.
PMCID: PMC2783454  PMID: 19786089
23.  The effect of low and high plasma levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) on the morphology of major organs: studies of Laron dwarf and bovine growth hormone transgenic (bGHTg) mice 
Histology and histopathology  2013;28(10):1325-1336.
It is well known that somatotrophic/insulin signaling affects lifespan in experimental animals. To study the effects of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) plasma level on the morphology of major organs, we analyzed lung, heart, liver, kidney, bone marrow, and spleen isolated from 2-year-old growth hormone receptor knockout (GHR-KO) Laron dwarf mice (with low circulating plasma levels of IGF-1) and 6-month-old bovine growth hormone transgenic (bGHTg) mice (with high circulating plasma levels of IGF-1). The ages of the two mutant strains employed in our studies were selected based on their overall ~50% survival (Laron dwarf mice live up to ~4 years and bGHTg mice up to ~1 year). Morphological analysis of the organs of long-living 2-year-old Laron dwarf mice revealed a lower biological age for their organs compared with normal littermates, with more brown adipose tissue (BAT) surrounding the main body organs, lower levels of steatosis in liver, and a lower incidence of leukocyte infiltration in different organs. By contrast, the organs of 6-month-old, short-living bGHTg mice displayed several abnormalities in liver and kidney and a reduced content of BAT around vital organs.
PMCID: PMC3988530  PMID: 23613169
Aging; Brown adipose tissue; Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1); Growth hormone (GH); Laron dwarf mice
24.  Augmented autophagy pathways and MTOR modulation in fibroblasts from long-lived mutant mice 
Autophagy  2012;8(8):1273-1274.
Fibroblasts from long-lived pituitary dwarf mutants, including Snell dwarf, Ames dwarf and the growth hormone receptor knockout (GHRKO) mice, are resistant in culture to multiple forms of lethal stress. We found that fibroblasts from Snell dwarf and GHRKO mice are more susceptible than control cells to autophagy induced by amino acid withdrawal or by oxidative stress. We also found evidence for lower MTOR function in dwarf cells under conditions that induce autophagy, consistent with the evidence that increased autophagy requires lower TOR activity. Our results provide new hints about the connections between autophagy and aging in long-lived mutants with alterations in GH-IGF1 levels, and suggest a role for hyperactive autophagy in the resistance of cells from these mice to lethal stresses.
PMCID: PMC3679241  PMID: 22653655
GHRKO; aging; amino acid deprivation; autophagy; dwarf; fibroblast; oxidative stress
25.  Differential Effects of Delayed Aging on Phenotype and Striatal Pathology in a Murine Model of Huntington Disease 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(47):15658-15668.
The common neurodegenerative syndromes exhibit age-related incidence, and many Mendelian neurodegenerative diseases exhibit age-related penetrance. Mutations slowing aging retard age related pathologies. To assess whether delayed aging retards the effects of a mutant allele causing a Huntington's disease (HD)-like syndrome, we generated compound mutant mice, placing a dominant HD knock-in polyglutamine allele onto the slow-aging Snell dwarf genotype. The Snell genotype did not affect mutant huntingtin protein expression. Bigenic and control mice were evaluated prospectively from 10 to 100 weeks of age. Adult HD knock-in allele mice lost weight progressively with weight loss blunted significantly in male bigenic HD knock-in/Snell dwarf mice. Impaired balance beam performance developed significantly more slowly in bigenic HD knock-in/Snell dwarf mice. Striatal dopamine receptor expression was diminished significantly and similarly in all HD-like mice, regardless of the Snell genotype. Striatal neuronal intranuclear inclusion burden was similar between HD knock-in mice with and without the Snell genotype, whereas nigral neuropil aggregates were diminished in bigenic HD knock-in/Snell dwarf mice. Compared with control mice, Snell dwarf mice exhibited differences in regional benzodiazepine and cannabinoid receptor binding site expression. These results indicate that delaying aging delayed behavioral decline with little effect on the development of striatal pathology in this model of HD but may have altered synaptic pathology. These results indicate that mutations prolonging lifespan in mice delay onset of significant phenotypic features of this model and also demonstrate dissociation between striatal pathology and a commonly used behavioral measure of disease burden in HD models.
PMCID: PMC4236397  PMID: 25411494
aging; neurodegeneration; polyglutamine; striatum

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