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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, 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
3.  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
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.  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
6.  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
7.  Insulin Sensitivity as a Key Mediator of Growth Hormone Actions on Longevity 
Reduced insulin sensitivity and glucose intolerance have been long suspected of having important involvement in aging. Here we report that in studies of calorie restriction (CR) effects in mutant (Prop1df and growth hormone receptor knockout [GHRKO]) and normal mice, insulin sensitivity was strongly associated with longevity. Of particular interest was enhancement of the already increased insulin sensitivity in CR df/df mice in which longevity was also further extended and the lack of changes in insulin sensitivity in calorically restricted GHRKO mice in which there was no further increase in average life span. We suggest that enhanced insulin sensitivity, in conjunction with reduced insulin levels, may represent an important (although almost certainly not exclusive) mechanism of increased longevity in hypopituitary, growth hormone (GH)-resistant, and calorie-restricted animals. We also report that the effects of GH treatment on insulin sensitivity may be limited to the period of GH administration.
PMCID: PMC2667133  PMID: 19304940
Insulin; Longevity; GHRKO; Ames dwarf
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Hormone-Treated Snell Dwarf Mice Regain Fertility But Remain Long Lived and Disease Resistant 
Snell dwarf mice have multiple hormonal deficits, but the way in which these deficits postpone aging are still uncertain. In this study, Snell dwarf mice received 11 weeks of growth hormone and thyroxine injections that increased their weight by approximately 45%, although they remained much smaller than controls. The hormone treatment also restored fertility to male dwarf mice. Despite these effects on growth and maturation, the hormone treatments did not diminish life span or lower the resistance of dwarf mice to cataracts and kidney disease. Administration of thyroxine in food throughout adult life did diminish longevity of Snell dwarf mice, although these mice remain longer lived than control animals. These results show that a 45% increase in body size does not impair longevity or disease resistance for dwarf mice of either sex, and that the exceptional longevity of Snell dwarf mice does not, at least for males, depend on prepubertal immaturity.
PMCID: PMC2924623  PMID: 15699523
11.  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
12.  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
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
14.  Disruption of Growth Hormone Receptor Prevents Calorie Restriction from Improving Insulin Action and Longevity 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4567.
Most mutations that delay aging and prolong lifespan in the mouse are related to somatotropic and/or insulin signaling. Calorie restriction (CR) is the only intervention that reliably increases mouse longevity. There is considerable phenotypic overlap between long-lived mutant mice and normal mice on chronic CR. Therefore, we investigated the interactive effects of CR and targeted disruption or knock out of the growth hormone receptor (GHRKO) in mice on longevity and the insulin signaling cascade. Every other day feeding corresponds to a mild (i.e. 15%) CR which increased median lifespan in normal mice but not in GHRKO mice corroborating our previous findings on the effects of moderate (30%) CR on the longevity of these animals. To determine why insulin sensitivity improves in normal but not GHRKO mice in response to 30% CR, we conducted insulin stimulation experiments after one year of CR. In normal mice, CR increased the insulin stimulated activation of the insulin signaling cascade (IR/IRS/PI3K/AKT) in liver and muscle. Livers of GHRKO mice responded to insulin by increased activation of the early steps of insulin signaling, which was dissipated by altered PI3K subunit abundance which putatively inhibited AKT activation. In the muscle of GHRKO mice, there was elevated downstream activation of the insulin signaling cascade (IRS/PI3K/AKT) in the absence of elevated IR activation. Further, we found a major reduction of inhibitory Ser phosphorylation of IRS-1 seen exclusively in GHRKO muscle which may underpin their elevated insulin sensitivity. Chronic CR failed to further modify the alterations in insulin signaling in GHRKO mice as compared to normal mice, likely explaining or contributing to the absence of CR effects on insulin sensitivity and longevity in these long-lived mice.
PMCID: PMC2639640  PMID: 19234595
15.  Fibroblasts from Long-Lived Mutant Mice Exhibit Increased Autophagy and Lower TOR Activity After Nutrient Deprivation or Oxidative Stress 
Aging Cell  2012;11(4):668-674.
Previous work has shown that primary skin-derived fibroblasts from long-lived pituitary dwarf mutants resist the lethal effects of many forms of oxidative and non-oxidative stress. We hypothesized that increased autophagy may protect fibroblasts of Pit-1dw/dw (Snell dwarf) mice from multiple forms of stress. We found dwarf-derived fibroblasts had higher levels of autophagy, using LC3 and p62 as markers, in responses to amino acid deprivation, hydrogen peroxide, and paraquat. Fibroblasts from dwarf mice also showed diminished phosphorylation of mTOR, S6K and 4EBP1, consistent with the higher levels of autophagy in these cells after stress. Similar results were also observed in fibroblasts from mutant mice lacking growth hormone receptor (GHRKO mice) after amino acid withdrawal. Our results suggested that increased autophagy, regulated by TOR-dependent processes, may contribute to stress resistance in fibroblasts from long-lived mutant mice.
PMCID: PMC3399977  PMID: 22577861
Autophagy; Snell dwarf; GHRKO; Aging; Oxidative Stress; Amino Acid Deprivation
16.  Structural modulation of gut microbiota in life-long calorie-restricted mice 
Nature Communications  2013;4:2163.
Calorie restriction has been regarded as the only experimental regimen that can effectively lengthen lifespan in various animal models, but the actual mechanism remains controversial. The gut microbiota has been shown to have a pivotal role in host health, and its structure is mostly shaped by diet. Here we show that life-long calorie restriction on both high-fat or low-fat diet, but not voluntary exercise, significantly changes the overall structure of the gut microbiota of C57BL/6 J mice. Calorie restriction enriches phylotypes positively correlated with lifespan, for example, the genus Lactobacillus on low-fat diet, and reduces phylotypes negatively correlated with lifespan. These calorie restriction-induced changes in the gut microbiota are concomitant with significantly reduced serum levels of lipopolysaccharide-binding protein, suggesting that animals under calorie restriction can establish a structurally balanced architecture of gut microbiota that may exert a health benefit to the host via reduction of antigen load from the gut.
Calorie restriction has been shown to extend lifespan in diverse model systems, however, the mechanisms underlying this effect remain unclear. Zhang et al. show that calorie restriction changes the structure of the gut microbiota in mice, enriching for phylotypes positively correlated with lifespan.
PMCID: PMC3717500  PMID: 23860099
17.  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
18.  Will calorie restriction work in humans? 
Aging (Albany NY)  2013;5(7):507-514.
Calorie Restriction (CR) without malnutrition slows aging and increases average and maximal lifespan in simple model organisms and rodents. In rhesus monkeys long-term CR reduces the incidence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, and protects against age-associated sarcopenia and neurodegeneration. However, so far CR significantly increased average lifespan only in the Wisconsin, but not in the NIA monkey study. Differences in diet composition and study design between the 2 on-going trials may explain the discrepancies in survival and disease. Nevertheless, many of the metabolic and hormonal adaptations that are typical of the long-lived CR rodents did not occur in either the NIA or WNPRC CR monkeys. Whether or not CR will extend lifespan in humans is not yet known, but accumulating data indicate that moderate CR with adequate nutrition has a powerful protective effect against obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and reduces metabolic risk factors associated with cancer. Moreover, CR in human beings improves markers of cardiovascular aging, and rejuvenates the skeletal muscle transcriptional profile. More studies are needed to understand the interactions between CR, diet composition, exercise, and other environmental and psychological factors on metabolic and molecular pathways that regulate health and longevity.
PMCID: PMC3765579  PMID: 23924667
calorie restriction; aging; chronic disease; prevention
19.  Rodents for comparative aging studies: from mice to beavers 
Age  2008;30(2-3):111-119.
After humans, mice are the best-studied mammalian species in terms of their biology and genetics. Gerontological research has used mice and rats extensively to generate short- and long-lived mutants, study caloric restriction and more. Mice and rats are valuable model organisms thanks to their small size, short lifespans and fast reproduction. However, when the goal is to further extend the already long human lifespan, studying fast aging species may not provide all the answers. Remarkably, in addition to the fast-aging species, the order Rodentia contains multiple long-lived species with lifespans exceeding 20 years (naked mole-rat, beavers, porcupines, and some squirrels). This diversity opens great opportunities for comparative aging studies. Here we discuss the evolution of lifespan in rodents, review the biology of slow-aging rodents, and show an example of how the use of a comparative approach revealed that telomerase activity coevolved with body mass in rodents.
PMCID: PMC2527635  PMID: 19424861
Aging; Comparative studies; Rodents; Telomerase
20.  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
21.  Morphology of ovaries in laron dwarf mice, with low circulating plasma levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and in bovine GH-transgenic mice, with high circulating plasma levels of IGF-1 
It is well known that somatotrophic/insulin signaling affects lifespan in experimental animals, and one of the signs of aging is progressive gonadal dysfunction.
To study the effects of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) plasma level on ovaries, we analyzed ovaries 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 Laron dwarf mutants employed in our studies were selected based on their overall survival (up to ~ 4 years for Laron dwarf mice and ~ 1 year for bGHTg mice).
Morphological analysis of the ovaries of mice that reached ~50% of their maximal life span revealed a lower biological age for the ovaries isolated from 2-year-old Laron dwarf mice than their normal-lifespan wild type littermates. By contrast, the ovarian morphology of increased in size 6 month old bGHTg mice was generally normal.
Ovaries isolated from 2-year-old Laron dwarf mice exhibit a lower biological age compared with ovaries from normal WT littermates at the same age. At the same time, no morphological features of accelerated aging were found in 0.5-year-old bGHTg mice compared with ovaries from normal the same age-matched WT littermates.
PMCID: PMC3583234  PMID: 22747742
Murine ovary; Laron dwarf mouse; Bovine growth hormone transgenic mouse; Growth hormone; Insulin-like growth factor-1; Aging
22.  Endocrine Regulation of Heat Shock Protein mRNA Levels in Long-lived Dwarf Mice 
Heat shock proteins (HSPs) maintain proteostasis and may protect against age-associated pathology caused by protein malfolding. In C. elegans, the lifespan extension and thermotolerance in mutants with impaired insulin/IGF signals depends partly on HSP elevation. Less is known about the role of HSPs in the increased lifespan of mice with defects in GH/IGF-I pathways. We measured HSP mRNAs in liver, kidney, heart, lung, muscle and cerebral cortex from long-lived Pit1(dw/dw) Snell dwarf mice. We found many significant differences in HSP mRNA levels between dwarf and control mice, but these effects were complex and organ-specific. We noted 15 instances where HSP mRNAs were lower in Pit1(dw/dw) liver, kidney, or heart tissues, and 14/15 of these were also seen in Ghr(-/-) mice, which lack GH receptor. In contrast, of 12 examples where HSP mRNAs were higher in Snell liver, kidney, or heart, none were altered in Ghr(-/-) mice. Four liver mRNAs were depressed in both Pit1(dw/dw) and Ghr(-/-) mice, and each of these was elevated by GH injection in Ames (Prop1(df/df)) dwarf mice, consistent with the hypothesis that these declines depended on GH and/or IGF-I. Contributions of chaperones to longevity in mice may be more complex than those inferred from C. elegans.
PMCID: PMC2718793  PMID: 19428459
23.  Role of Insulin and Growth Hormone/Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I Signaling in Lifespan Extension: Rodent Longevity Models for Studying Aging and Calorie Restriction 
Current Genomics  2007;8(7):423-428.
Insulin/insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) pathways are recognized as critical signaling pathways involved in the control of lifespans in lower organisms to mammals. Caloric restriction (CR) reduces plasma concentration of insulin, growth hormone (GH), and IGF-I. CR retards various age-dependent disorders such as nuerodegenerative diseases and extends lifespan in laboratory rodents. These beneficial effects of CR are partly mimicked in spontaneous or genetically engineered rodent models of reduced insulin and GH/IGF-I axis. Most of these long-living rodents show increased insulin sensitivity; however, recent study has revealed that some other rodents show normal or reduced insulin sensitivity. Thus, increased insulin sensitivity might be not prerequisite for lifespan extension in insulin/GH/IGF-I altered longevity rodent models. These results highlighted that, for lifespan extension, the intracellular signaling molecules of insulin/GH/IGF-I pathways might be more important than actual peripheral or systemic insulin action.
PMCID: PMC2647154  PMID: 19412415
Insulin; GH; IGF-I; calorie restriction.
24.  Effect of Ames dwarfism and caloric restriction on spontaneous mutation frequency in different mouse tissues 
Genetic instability has been implicated as a causal factor in cancer and aging. Caloric restriction (CR) and suppression of the somatotroph axis significantly increase life span in the mouse and reduces multiple symptoms of aging, including cancer. To test if in vivo spontaneous mutation frequency is reduced by such mechanisms, we crossed long-lived Ames dwarf mice with a C57BL/6J line harboring multiple copies of the lacZ mutation reporter gene as part of a plasmid that can be recovered from tissues and organs into E. coli to measure mutant frequencies. Four cohorts were studied: (1) ad lib wild-type; (2) CR wild-type; (3) ad lib dwarf; and (4) CR dwarf. While both CR wild-type and ad lib dwarf mice lived significantly longer than the ad lib wild-type mice, under CR conditions dwarf mice did not live any longer than ad lib wild-type mice. While this may be due to an as yet unknown adverse effect of the C57Bl/6 background, it did not prevent an effect on spontaneous mutation frequencies at the lacZ locus, which were assessed in liver, kidney and small intestine of 7- and 15-month old mice of all four cohorts. A lower mutant frequency in the ad lib dwarf background was observed in liver and kidney at 7 and 15 months of age and in small intestine at 15 months of age as compared to the ad lib wild-type. CR also significantly reduced spontaneous mutant frequency in kidney and small intestine, but not in liver. In a separate cohort of lacZ-C57BL/6J mice CR was also found to significantly reduce spontaneous mutant frequency in liver and small intestine, across three age levels. These results indicate that two major pro-longevity interventions in the mouse are associated with a reduced mutation frequency. This could be responsible, at least in part, for the enhanced longevity associated with Ames dwarfism and CR.
PMCID: PMC2581895  PMID: 18565572
25.  Alterations in Oxygen Consumption, Respiratory Quotient, and Heat Production in Long-Lived GHRKO and Ames Dwarf Mice, and Short-Lived bGH Transgenic Mice 
Growth hormone (GH) signaling influences longevity in mice, with decreased GH signaling associated with longer life span and increased GH signaling with shortened life span. A proposed mechanism through which GH signaling influences life span postulates that decreased GH signaling lowers metabolic rate, thus slowing aging by decreasing production of damaging free radicals. The influence of altered GH signaling on metabolism was tested by monitoring oxygen consumption (VO2), respiratory quotient (RQ), and heat production in long-lived GH receptor knockout (GHRKO) and Ames dwarf mice, and short-lived bovine GH-overexpressing transgenic (bGH TG) mice. Intriguingly, both GHRKO and Ames dwarf mice have increased VO2 and heat per gram body weight, and decreased RQ, whereas bGH TG mice have decreased VO2 and heat per gram body weight and increased RQ. In conclusion, decreased GH signaling associates with increased metabolism per body weight and may beneficially affect mitochondrial flexibility by increasing the capacity for fat oxidation; generally, GH excess produces opposite metabolic effects.
PMCID: PMC2657169  PMID: 19286975
Metabolism; Altered growth hormone signaling; Thyroid hormone; Oxygen consumption; Respiratory quotient

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