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1.  Thioredoxin, oxidative stress, cancer and aging 
The Free Radical or Oxidative Stress Theory of Aging is one of the most popular theories in aging research and has been extensively studied over the past several decades. However, recent evidence using transgenic/knockout mice that overexpress or down-regulate antioxidant enzymes challenge the veracity of this theory since the animals show no increase or decrease in lifespan. These results seriously call into question the role of oxidative damage/stress in the aging process in mammals. Therefore, the theory requires significant modifications if we are to understand the relationship between aging and the regulation of oxidative stress. Our laboratory has been examining the impacts of thioredoxins (Trxs), in the cytosol and mitochondria, on aging and age-related diseases. Our data from mice that are either up-regulating or down-regulating Trx in different cellular compartments, that is, the cytosol or mitochondria, could shed some light on the role of oxidative stress and its pathophysiological effects. The results generated from our lab and others may indicate that: 1) changes in oxidative stress and the redox state in the cytosol, mitochondria or nucleus might play different roles in the aging process; 2) the role of oxidative stress and redox state could have different pathophysiological consequences in different tissues/cells, for example, mitotic vs. post-mitotic; 3) oxidative stress could have different pathophysiological impacts in young and old animals; and 4) the pathophysiological roles of oxidative stress and redox state could be controlled through changes in redox-sensitive signaling, which could have more diverse effects on pathophysiology than the accumulation of oxidative damage to various molecules. To critically test the role of oxidative stress on aging and age-related diseases, further study is required using animal models that regulate oxidative stress levels differently in each cellular compartment, each tissue/organ, and/or at different stages of life (young, middle and old) to change redox sensitive signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3886257  PMID: 24764510
Thioredoxin; Transgenic mouse; Knockout mouse; Oxidative stress; Cancer; aging
2.  Deletion of the Mitochondrial Superoxide Dismutase sod-2 Extends Lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(2):e1000361.
The oxidative stress theory of aging postulates that aging results from the accumulation of molecular damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated during normal metabolism. Superoxide dismutases (SODs) counteract this process by detoxifying superoxide. It has previously been shown that elimination of either cytoplasmic or mitochondrial SOD in yeast, flies, and mice results in decreased lifespan. In this experiment, we examine the effect of eliminating each of the five individual sod genes present in Caenorhabditis elegans. In contrast to what is observed in other model organisms, none of the sod deletion mutants shows decreased lifespan compared to wild-type worms, despite a clear increase in sensitivity to paraquat- and juglone-induced oxidative stress. In fact, even mutants lacking combinations of two or three sod genes survive at least as long as wild-type worms. Examination of gene expression in these mutants reveals mild compensatory up-regulation of other sod genes. Interestingly, we find that sod-2 mutants are long-lived despite a significant increase in oxidatively damaged proteins. Testing the effect of sod-2 deletion on known pathways of lifespan extension reveals a clear interaction with genes that affect mitochondrial function: sod-2 deletion markedly increases lifespan in clk-1 worms while clearly decreasing the lifespan of isp-1 worms. Combined with the mitochondrial localization of SOD-2 and the fact that sod-2 mutant worms exhibit phenotypes that are characteristic of long-lived mitochondrial mutants—including slow development, low brood size, and slow defecation—this suggests that deletion of sod-2 extends lifespan through a similar mechanism. This conclusion is supported by our demonstration of decreased oxygen consumption in sod-2 mutant worms. Overall, we show that increased oxidative stress caused by deletion of sod genes does not result in decreased lifespan in C. elegans and that deletion of sod-2 extends worm lifespan by altering mitochondrial function.
Author Summary
In this paper, we examine the oxidative stress theory of aging using C. elegans as a model system. This theory proposes that aging results from the accumulation of molecular damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). To test this theory, we examined the effect of deleting each of the five individual superoxide dismutase (SOD) genes on lifespan and sensitivity to oxidative stress. Since SOD acts to detoxify ROS, the oxidative stress theory predicts that deletion of sod genes should increase oxidative stress and decrease lifespan. However, in contrast to yeast, flies, and mice, where loss of either cytoplasmic or mitochondrial SOD results in decreased lifespan, we find that none of the sod deletion mutants in C. elegans exhibits a shortened lifespan despite increased sensitivity to oxidative stress. Surprisingly, we find that sod-2 mutant worms have extended lifespan and even worms with the primary cytoplasmic, mitochondrial, and extracellular sod genes deleted can live longer than wild-type worms. By examining genetic interactions with other genes known to extend lifespan and by comparing the phenotype of worms lacking sod-2 to that of known long-lived mitochondrial mutants such as clk-1 or isp-1, we provide evidence that the loss of sod-2 extends lifespan through alteration of mitochondrial function.
PMCID: PMC2628729  PMID: 19197346
3.  The oxidative stress theory of aging: embattled or invincible? Insights from non-traditional model organisms 
Age  2008;30(2-3):99-109.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS), inevitable byproducts of aerobic metabolism, are known to cause oxidative damage to cells and molecules. This, in turn, is widely accepted as a pivotal determinant of both lifespan and health span. While studies in a wide range of species support the role of ROS in many age-related diseases, its role in aging per se is questioned. Comparative data from a wide range of endotherms offer equivocal support for this theory, with many exceptions and inconclusive findings as to whether or not oxidative stress is either a correlate or a determinant of maximum species lifespan. Available data do not support the premise that metabolic rate and in vivo ROS production are determinants of lifespan, or that superior antioxidant defense contributes to species longevity. Rather, published studies often show either a negative associate or lack of correlation with species longevity. Furthermore, many long-living species such as birds, bats and mole-rats exhibit high levels of oxidative damage even at young ages. Similarly genetic manipulations altering expression of key antioxidants do not necessarily show an impact on lifespan, even though oxidative damage levels may be affected. While it is possible that these multiple exceptions to straightforward predictions of the free radical theory of aging all reflect species-specific, “private” mechanisms of aging, the preponderance of contrary data nevertheless present a challenge to this august theory. Therefore, contrary to accepted dogma, the role of oxidative stress as a determinant of longevity is still open to question.
PMCID: PMC2527631  PMID: 19424860
Aging; Bats; Birds; Comparative biology of aging; Lifespan; Mole-rats; Oxidative stress
4.  The nature and mechanism of superoxide production by the electron transport chain: Its relevance to aging 
Most biogerontologists agree that oxygen (and nitrogen) free radicals play a major role in the process of aging. The evidence strongly suggests that the electron transport chain, located in the inner mitochondrial membrane, is the major source of reactive oxygen species in animal cells. It has been reported that there exists an inverse correlation between the rate of superoxide/hydrogen peroxide production by mitochondria and the maximum longevity of mammalian species. However, no correlation or most frequently an inverse correlation exists between the amount of antioxidant enzymes and maximum longevity. Although overexpression of the antioxidant enzymes SOD1 and CAT (as well as SOD1 alone) have been successful at extending maximum lifespan in Drosophila, this has not been the case in mice. Several labs have overexpressed SOD1 and failed to see a positive effect on longevity. An explanation for this failure is that there is some level of superoxide damage that is not preventable by SOD, such as that initiated by the hydroperoxyl radical inside the lipid bilayer, and that accumulation of this damage is responsible for aging. I therefore suggest an alternative approach to testing the free radical theory of aging in mammals. Instead of trying to increase the amount of antioxidant enzymes, I suggest using molecular biology/transgenics to decrease the rate of superoxide production, which in the context of the free radical theory of aging would be expected to increase longevity. This paper aims to summarize what is known about the nature and mechanisms of superoxide production and what genes are involved in controlling the rate of superoxide production.
PMCID: PMC3455268  PMID: 23604868
5.  Mitochondrial oxidative stress in aging and healthspan 
The free radical theory of aging proposes that reactive oxygen species (ROS)-induced accumulation of damage to cellular macromolecules is a primary driving force of aging and a major determinant of lifespan. Although this theory is one of the most popular explanations for the cause of aging, several experimental rodent models of antioxidant manipulation have failed to affect lifespan. Moreover, antioxidant supplementation clinical trials have been largely disappointing. The mitochondrial theory of aging specifies more particularly that mitochondria are both the primary sources of ROS and the primary targets of ROS damage. In addition to effects on lifespan and aging, mitochondrial ROS have been shown to play a central role in healthspan of many vital organ systems. In this article we review the evidence supporting the role of mitochondrial oxidative stress, mitochondrial damage and dysfunction in aging and healthspan, including cardiac aging, age-dependent cardiovascular diseases, skeletal muscle aging, neurodegenerative diseases, insulin resistance and diabetes as well as age-related cancers. The crosstalk of mitochondrial ROS, redox, and other cellular signaling is briefly presented. Potential therapeutic strategies to improve mitochondrial function in aging and healthspan are reviewed, with a focus on mitochondrial protective drugs, such as the mitochondrial antioxidants MitoQ, SkQ1, and the mitochondrial protective peptide SS-31.
PMCID: PMC4013820  PMID: 24860647
Mitochondria; Oxidative stress; Aging; Healthspan
6.  Walking the Oxidative Stress Tightrope: A Perspective from the Naked Mole-Rat, the Longest-Living Rodent 
Current pharmaceutical design  2011;17(22):2290-2307.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS), by-products of aerobic metabolism, cause oxidative damage to cells and tissue and not surprisingly many theories have arisen to link ROS-induced oxidative stress to aging and health. While studies clearly link ROS to a plethora of divergent diseases, their role in aging is still debatable. Genetic knock-down manipulations of antioxidants alter the levels of accrued oxidative damage, however, the resultant effect of increased oxidative stress on lifespan are equivocal. Similarly the impact of elevating antioxidant levels through transgenic manipulations yield inconsistent effects on longevity. Furthermore, comparative data from a wide range of endotherms with disparate longevity remain inconclusive. Many long-living species such as birds, bats and mole-rats exhibit high-levels of oxidative damage, evident already at young ages. Clearly, neither the amount of ROS per se nor the sensitivity in neutralizing ROS are as important as whether or not the accrued oxidative stress leads to oxidative-damage-linked age-associated diseases. In this review we examine the literature on ROS, its relation to disease and the lessons gleaned from a comparative approach based upon species with widely divergent responses. We specifically focus on the longest lived rodent, the naked mole-rat, which maintains good health and provides novel insights into the paradox of maintaining both an extended healthspan and lifespan despite high oxidative stress from a young age.
PMCID: PMC3980719  PMID: 21736541
Comparative biology of aging; mitochondria; naked mole-rat; oxidative stress; proteasome; autophagy; reactive oxygen species
7.  The Naked Mole-Rat Response to Oxidative Stress: Just Deal with It 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2013;19(12):1388-1399.
Significance: The oxidative stress theory of aging has been the most widely accepted theory of aging providing insights into why we age and die for over 50 years, despite mounting evidence from a multitude of species indicating that there is no direct relationship between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and longevity. Here we explore how different species, including the longest lived rodent, the naked mole-rat, have defied the most predominant aging theory. Recent Advances: In the case of extremely long-lived naked mole-rat, levels of ROS production are found to be similar to mice, antioxidant defenses unexceptional, and even under constitutive conditions, naked mole-rats combine a pro-oxidant intracellular milieu with high, steady state levels of oxidative damage. Clearly, naked mole-rats can tolerate this level of oxidative stress and must have mechanisms in place to prevent its translation into potentially lethal diseases. Critical Issues: In addition to the naked mole-rat, other species from across the phylogenetic spectrum and even certain mouse strains do not support this theory. Moreover, overexpressing or knocking down antioxidant levels alters levels of oxidative damage and even cancer incidence, but does not modulate lifespan. Future Directions: Perhaps, it is not oxidative stress that modulates healthspan and longevity, but other cytoprotective mechanisms that allow animals to deal with high levels of oxidative damage and stress, and nevertheless live long, relatively healthy lifespans. Studying these mechanisms in uniquely long-lived species, like the naked mole-rat, may help us tease out the key contributors to aging and longevity. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 1388–1399.
PMCID: PMC3791056  PMID: 23025341
8.  Nutrient-Dependent Requirement for SOD1 in Lifespan Extension by Protein Restriction in Drosophila melanogaster 
Aging cell  2012;11(5):783-793.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) modulate aging and aging-related diseases. Dietary composition is critical in modulating lifespan. However, how ROS modulate dietary effects on lifespan remains poorly understood. Superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) is a major cytosolic enzyme responsible for scavenging superoxides. Here we investigated the role of SOD1 in lifespan modulation by diet in Drosophila. We found that a high sugar-low protein (HS-LP) diet or low-calorie diet with low-sugar content, representing protein restriction, increased lifespan but not resistance to acute oxidative stress in wild-type flies, relative to a standard base diet. A low sugar-high protein diet had an opposite effect. Our genetic analysis indicated that SOD1 overexpression or dfoxo deletion did not alter lifespan patterns of flies responding to diets. However, sod1 reduction blunted lifespan extension by the HS-LP diet but not the low-calorie diet. HS-LP and low-calorie diets both reduced target-of-rapamycin (TOR) signaling and only the HS-LP diet increased oxidative damage. sod1 knockdown did not affect phosphorylation of S6 kinase, suggesting that SOD1 acts in parallel with or downstream of TOR signaling. Surprisingly rapamycin decreased lifespan in sod1 mutant but not wild-type males fed the standard, HS-LP and low calorie diets, whereas antioxidant N-acetylcysteine only increased lifespan in sod1 mutant males fed the HS-LP diet, when compared to diet-matched controls. Our findings suggest that SOD1 is required for lifespan extension by protein restriction only when dietary sugar is high, and support the context-dependent role of ROS in aging and caution the use of rapamycin and antioxidants in aging interventions.
PMCID: PMC3444681  PMID: 22672579
9.  New directions for studying the role of free radicals in aging 
Age  1997;20(3):151-163.
Oxidative damage caused by free radicals in vivo is believed to play an important role in the etiology of aging and age-associated degenerative diseases. The most direct evidence supporting this theory is the recent finding that the transgenic Drosophila that overexpress the antioxidant enzymes catalase and superoxide dismutase exhibit an increase in life span. Although the increase in life span in Drosophila by these enzymes is certainly important, the next logical direction is to demonstrate whether increased antioxidant protection occurs similarly in mammals. Several transgenic mouse models that overexpress antioxidant enzymes are currently available. However, one major shortcoming in using these transgenic mice is the difficulty of producing antioxidant overexpression in more than a few tissues. Despite the potential shortcomings of using transgenic mice, these animals provide a unique system in which individual components of a complex system, such as the antioxidant defense system, can be modulated and examined independently. Transgenic mice are therefore potentially powerful tools to study the role of various components of the antioxidant system in the aging process.
A parallel direction in the study of free radical roles in aging is to investigate the modulation of transcription factors by oxidative stress. Among these, the transcription factors, NF-κB and AP-1 are implicated in oxidative stress. The activities of these oxidative stress-response transcription factors are regulated by upstream signaling molecules, which involve a cascade of phosphorylation and dephosphorylation events leading to their activation. In this article, we review recent studies that use molecular approaches to investigate the biological role of oxidant stress. Each of these studies potentially provide new insights into the roles of free radicals and free radical damage in the aging process.
PMCID: PMC3455893  PMID: 23604307
Oxidative stress; Transcription factors; Antioxidant defense; Transgenic mice; Overexpression and deletion of genes; Signal transduction
10.  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
11.  Increased life span from overexpression of superoxide dismutase in Caenorhabditis elegans is not caused by decreased oxidative damage 
Free Radical Biology & Medicine  2011;51(8):1575-1582.
The superoxide free radical (O2•−) has been viewed as a likely major contributor to aging. If this is correct, then superoxide dismutase (SOD), which removes O2•−, should contribute to longevity assurance. In Caenorhabditis elegans, overexpression (OE) of the major cytosolic Cu/Zn-SOD, sod-1, increases life span. But is this increase caused by enhanced antioxidant defense? sod-1 OE did not reduce measures of lipid oxidation or glycation and actually increased levels of protein oxidation. The effect of sod-1 OE on life span was dependent on the DAF-16/FoxO transcription factor (TF) and, partially, on the heat shock TF HSF-1. Similarly, overexpression of sod-2 (major mitochondrial Mn-SOD) resulted in life-span extension that was daf-16 dependent. sod-1 OE increased steady-state hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) levels in vivo. However, co-overexpression of catalase did not suppress the life-span extension, arguing against H2O2 as a cause of longevity. sod-1 OE increased hsp-4 expression, suggesting increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Moreover, longevity was partially suppressed by inactivation of ire-1 and xbp-1, mediators of the ER stress response. This suggests that high levels of SOD-1 protein may challenge protein-folding homeostasis, triggering a daf-16- and hsf-1-dependent stress response that extends life span. These findings imply that SOD overexpression increases C. elegans life span, not by removal of O2•−, but instead by activating longevity-promoting transcription factors.
► sod-1 over-expression increases levels of cellular ROS and of molecular damage. ► sod-1 over-expression effects on lifespan are dependent on DAF-16 (FoxO) and HSF-1. ► Increased lifespan is partially suppressed by inactivation of ER stress mediators. ► sod-2 (MnSOD) over-expression effects on lifespan are dependent on DAF-16.
PMCID: PMC3202636  PMID: 21839827
HNE, 4-hydroxynonenal; AMPK, AMP-dependent kinase; CML, carboxymethyllysine; co-OE, co-overexpression; HSF-1, heat shock factor-1; IIS, insulin/IGF-1 signaling; NAC, N-acetylcysteine; OE, overexpression; ROS, reactive oxygen species; RNAi, RNA-mediated interference; O2•−, superoxide anion; SOD, superoxide dismutase; Aging; Caenorhabditis elegans; daf-16/FoxO; ER stress; Oxidative damage; Superoxide dismutase; Free radicals
12.  Mouse Models of Oxidative Stress Indicate a Role for Modulating Healthy Aging 
Aging is a complex process that affects every major system at the molecular, cellular and organ levels. Although the exact cause of aging is unknown, there is significant evidence that oxidative stress plays a major role in the aging process. The basis of the oxidative stress hypothesis is that aging occurs as a result of an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants, which leads to the accrual of damaged proteins, lipids and DNA macromolecules with age. Age-dependent increases in protein oxidation and aggregates, lipofuscin, and DNA mutations contribute to age-related pathologies. Many transgenic/knockout mouse models over expressing or deficient in key antioxidant enzymes have been generated to examine the effect of oxidative stress on aging and age-related diseases. Based on currently reported lifespan studies using mice with altered antioxidant defense, there is little evidence that oxidative stress plays a role in determining lifespan. However, mice deficient in antioxidant enzymes are often more susceptible to age-related disease while mice overexpressing antioxidant enzymes often have an increase in the amount of time spent without disease, i.e., healthspan. Thus, by understanding the mechanisms that affect healthy aging, we may discover potential therapeutic targets to extend human healthspan.
PMCID: PMC4188441  PMID: 25300955
Aging; Oxidative stress; Healthspan
13.  Time line of redox events in aging postmitotic cells 
eLife  2013;2:e00306.
The precise roles that oxidants play in lifespan and aging are still unknown. Here, we report the discovery that chronologically aging yeast cells undergo a sudden redox collapse, which affects over 80% of identified thiol-containing proteins. We present evidence that this redox collapse is not triggered by an increase in endogenous oxidants as would have been postulated by the free radical theory of aging. Instead it appears to be instigated by a substantial drop in cellular NADPH, which normally provides the electron source for maintaining cellular redox homeostasis. This decrease in NADPH levels occurs very early during lifespan and sets into motion a cascade that is predicted to down-regulate most cellular processes. Caloric restriction, a near-universal lifespan extending measure, increases NADPH levels and delays each facet of the cascade. Our studies reveal a time line of events leading up to the system-wide oxidation of the proteome days before cell death.
eLife digest
While most animals experience a physiological decline as they age, the underlying cause of this decline is not fully understood. According to the free radical theory of aging, chemicals known as reactive oxygen species build up in the body and then cause damage to various components within cells, including DNA and proteins. These species, which include hydrogen peroxide and peroxynitrite, can cause substantial oxidative damage. However, while there is definitely a relationship between aging and reactive oxygen species, it remains possible that oxidative damage is a byproduct of aging rather than the cause of it.
In the past researchers have measured the carbonylation of proteins (that is, the oxidation of certain amino acids in proteins) as a proxy for damage caused by reactive oxygen species, but this method has a number of shortcomings. More recently, it has become possible to quantify the oxidation state of cysteine, an amino acid that contains sulfur, in proteins using a technique based on mass spectrometry. Building on previous work in which they used this technique to measure the oxidation state of 300 proteins in vivo in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Brandes et al. have now determined how the oxidation state of these proteins changes over the lifespan of S. cerevisiae, which is a popular model system for analyzing aging in cells that are in a high metabolic state but are no longer dividing. This made it possible to identify protein targets that might—as a result of changes in their oxidation state caused by reactive oxygen species—contribute to the physiological alterations observed in aging organisms. It was also possible to establish a clear connection between the onset and extent of oxidative stress and lifespan.
Brandes et al. discovered that several days before the yeast cells died, they underwent a sudden and global ‘redox collapse’ in which ∼80% of the 300 proteins being studied experienced an increase in their oxidation state (i.e., they lost electrons). This event was preceded by a large drop in the level of NADPH, a coenzyme that, by being a source of electrons, helps to counterbalance the removal of electrons by reactive oxygen species within cells. The drop in the concentration of NADPH occurred very early in the life cycle of the yeast, and set in motion a series of events that down-regulated most cellular processes. Intriguingly, these findings are consistent with the effect of caloric restriction, a condition that is known to extend the lifespan of animals. Caloric restriction increases cellular NADPH and delays the down-regulation of cellular processes.
Brandes et al. propose that the underlying cause of aging is not the accumulation of reactive oxygen species: rather, these results suggest that aging is caused by a sudden and substantial decrease in available NADPH, which means that cells cannot maintain a stable oxidation state. If borne out by further work, these findings could have a significant impact on how we think about the aging process, and could require researchers to rethink how they study aging.
PMCID: PMC3564446  PMID: 23390587
Aging; Oxidative Stress; Redox Regulation; Metabolism; Redox Proteomics; S. cerevisiae
14.  Oxidative stress is a potential cost of breeding in male and female northern elephant seals 
Functional ecology  2014;29(3):367-376.
The trade-off between current reproductive effort and survival is a key concept of life history theory. A variety of studies support the existence of this trade-off but the underlying physiological mechanisms are not well-understood. Oxidative stress has been proposed as a potential mechanism underlying the observed inverse relationship between reproductive investment and lifespan. Prolonged fasting is associated with oxidative stress including increases in the production of reactive oxygen species, oxidative damage and inflammation.Northern elephant seals (NES) undergo prolonged fasts while maintaining high metabolic rates during breeding. We investigated NES of both sexes to assess oxidative stress associated with extended breeding fasts. We measured changes in the plasma activity or concentrations of markers for oxidative stress in 30 adult male and 33 adult female northern elephant seals across their 1–3 month breeding fasts. Markers assessed included a pro-oxidant enzyme, several antioxidant enzymes, markers for oxidative damage to lipids, proteins and DNA, and markers for systemic inflammation.Plasma xanthine oxidase (XO), a pro-oxidant enzyme that increases production of oxidative radicals, and several protective antioxidant enzymes increased over breeding in both sexes. Males showed increased oxidative damage to lipids and DNA and increased systemic inflammation, while oxidative damage to proteins declined across breeding. In contrast, females showed no oxidative damage to lipids or DNA or changes in inflammation, but showed increases in oxidative damage to proteins. XO activity, antioxidant enzymes, oxidative damage markers, and inflammatory markers were strongly correlated in males but these relationships were weaker or non-existent in females.NES provide evidence for oxidative stress as a physiological cost of reproduction in a capital breeding mammal. Both sexes strongly up-regulated antioxidant defenses during breeding. Despite this response, and in contrast to similar duration non-breeding fasts in previous studies on conspecifics, there was evidence of oxidative damage to tissues. These data demonstrate the utility of using plasma markers to examine oxidative stress but also suggest the necessity of measuring a broad suite of plasma markers to assess systemic oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC4429057  PMID: 25983364
reproduction; life-history theory; pinnipeds; fasting; lipid peroxidation
15.  A Mitochondrial Superoxide Signal Triggers Increased Longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(12):e1000556.
The study of long-lived C. elegans mutants suggests that mitochondrial oxidants can actually help reduce aging by acting as stress signals, rather than acting solely as toxic molecules.
The nuo-6 and isp-1 genes of C. elegans encode, respectively, subunits of complex I and III of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Partial loss-of-function mutations in these genes decrease electron transport and greatly increase the longevity of C. elegans by a mechanism that is distinct from that induced by reducing their level of expression by RNAi. Electron transport is a major source of the superoxide anion (O⋅–), which in turn generates several types of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS), and aging is accompanied by increased oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the generation and detoxification of ROS. These observations have suggested that the longevity of such mitochondrial mutants might result from a reduction in ROS generation, which would be consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. It is difficult to measure ROS directly in living animals, and this has held back progress in determining their function in aging. Here we have adapted a technique of flow cytometry to directly measure ROS levels in isolated mitochondria to show that the generation of superoxide is elevated in the nuo-6 and isp-1 mitochondrial mutants, although overall ROS levels are not, and oxidative stress is low. Furthermore, we show that this elevation is necessary and sufficient to increase longevity, as it is abolished by the antioxidants NAC and vitamin C, and phenocopied by mild treatment with the prooxidant paraquat. Furthermore, the absence of effect of NAC and the additivity of the effect of paraquat on a variety of long- and short-lived mutants suggest that the pathway triggered by mitochondrial superoxide is distinct from previously studied mechanisms, including insulin signaling, dietary restriction, ubiquinone deficiency, the hypoxic response, and hormesis. These findings are not consistent with the mitochondrial oxidative stress theory of aging. Instead they show that increased superoxide generation acts as a signal in young mutant animals to trigger changes of gene expression that prevent or attenuate the effects of subsequent aging. We propose that superoxide is generated as a protective signal in response to molecular damage sustained during wild-type aging as well. This model provides a new explanation for the well-documented correlation between ROS and the aged phenotype as a gradual increase of molecular damage during aging would trigger a gradually stronger ROS response.
Author Summary
An unequivocal demonstration that mitochondria are important for lifespan comes from studies with the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Mutations in mitochondrial proteins such as ISP-1 and NUO-6, which function directly in mitochondrial electron transport, lead to a dramatic increase in the lifespan of this organism. One theory proposes that toxicity of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) is the cause of aging and predicts that the generation of the ROS superoxide should be low in these mutants. Here we have measured superoxide generation in these mutants and found that it is in fact elevated, rather than reduced. Furthermore, we found that this elevation is necessary and sufficient for longevity, as it is abolished by antioxidants and induced by mild treatment with oxidants. This suggests that superoxide can act as a signal triggering cellular changes that attenuate the effects of aging. This idea suggests a new model for the well-documented correlation between ROS and the aged phenotype. We propose that a gradual increase of molecular damage during aging triggers a concurrent, gradually intensifying, protective superoxide response.
PMCID: PMC2998438  PMID: 21151885
16.  Lifespan Extending and Stress Resistant Properties of Vitexin from Vigna angularis in Caenorhabditis elegans 
Biomolecules & Therapeutics  2015;23(6):582-589.
Several theories emphasize that aging is closely related to oxidative stress and disease. The formation of excess ROS can lead to DNA damage and the acceleration of aging. Vigna angularis is one of the important medicinal plants in Korea. We isolated vitexin from V. angularis and elucidated the lifespan-extending effect of vitexin using the Caenorhabditis elegans model system. Vitexin showed potent lifespan extensive activity and it elevated the survival rates of nematodes against the stressful environments including heat and oxidative conditions. In addition, our results showed that vitexin was able to elevate antioxidant enzyme activities of worms and reduce intracellular ROS accumulation in a dose-dependent manner. These studies demonstrated that the increased stress tolerance of vitexin-mediated nematode could be attributed to increased expressions of stress resistance proteins such as superoxide dismutase (SOD-3) and heat shock protein (HSP-16.2). In this work, we also studied whether vitexin-mediated longevity activity was associated with aging-related factors such as progeny, food intake, growth and movement. The data revealed that these factors were not affected by vitexin treatment except movement. Vitexin treatment improved the body movement of aged nematode, suggesting vitexin affects healthspan as well as lifespan of nematode. These results suggest that vitexin might be a probable candidate which could extend the human lifespan.
PMCID: PMC4624075  PMID: 26535084
Vigna angularis; Vitexin; Caenorhabditis elegans; Lifespan extension; Stress tolerance
17.  Oxidative Damage and Cellular Defense Mechanisms in Sea Urchin Models of Aging 
The free radical or oxidative stress theory of aging proposes that the accumulation of oxidative cellular damage is a major contributor to the aging process and a key determinant of species longevity. This study investigates the oxidative stress theory in a novel model for aging research, the sea urchin. Sea urchins present a unique model for the study of aging due to the existence of species with tremendously different natural life spans including some species with extraordinary longevity and negligible senescence. Cellular oxidative damage, antioxidant capacity and proteasome enzyme activities were measured in the tissues of three sea urchin species: short-lived Lytechinus variegatus, long-lived Strongylocentrotus franciscanus and Strongylocentrotus purpuratus which has an intermediate lifespan. Levels of protein carbonyls and 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE) measured in tissues (muscle, nerve, esophagus, gonad, coelomocytes, ampullae) and 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) measured in cell-free coelomic fluid showed no general increase with age. The fluorescent age-pigment lipofuscin measured in muscle, nerve and esophagus, increased with age however it appeared to be predominantly extracellular. Antioxidant mechanisms (total antioxidant capacity, superoxide dismutase) and proteasome enzyme activities were maintained with age. In some instances, levels of oxidative damage were lower and antioxidant activity higher in cells or tissues of the long-lived species compared to the short-lived species, however further studies are required to determine the relationship between oxidative damage and longevity in these animals. Consistent with the predictions of the oxidative stress theory of aging, the results suggest that negligible senescence is accompanied by a lack of accumulation of cellular oxidative damage with age and maintenance of antioxidant capacity and proteasome enzyme activities may be important mechanisms to mitigate damage.
PMCID: PMC3782381  PMID: 23707327
sea urchin; oxidative damage; reactive oxygen species; antioxidants; proteasome; lipofuscin; aging; negligible senescence
18.  Update on the oxidative stress theory of aging: Does oxidative stress play a role in aging or healthy aging? 
The oxidative stress theory of aging predicts that manipulations that alter oxidative stress/damage will alter aging. The gold standard for determining whether aging is altered is lifespan, i.e., does altering oxidative stress/damage change lifespan? Mice with genetic manipulations in the antioxidant defense system designed to directly address this prediction have, with few exceptions, shown no change in lifespan. However, when these transgenic/knockout mice are tested using models that develop various types of age-related pathology, they show alterations in progression and/or severity of pathology as predicted by the oxidative stress theory; increased oxidative stress accelerates pathology and reduced oxidative stress retards pathology. These contradictory observations might mean a) oxidative stress plays a very limited, if any, role in aging but a major role in healthspan; and/or b) the role that oxidative stress plays in aging depends on environment. In environments with minimal stress, as expected under optimal husbandry, oxidative damage plays little role in aging. However, under chronic stress, including pathological phenotypes that diminish optimal health, oxidative stress/damage plays a major role in aging. Under these conditions, enhanced antioxidant defenses exert an “anti-aging” action, leading to changes in lifespan, age-related pathology, and physiological function as predicted by the oxidative stress theory of aging.
PMCID: PMC2819595  PMID: 20036736
oxidative stress; aging; disease; lifespan; healthspan
19.  Studies of Caenorhabditis elegans DAF-2/insulin signaling reveal targets for pharmacological manipulation of lifespan 
Aging Cell  2006;5(1):31-37.
Much excitement has arisen from the observation that decrements in insulin-like signaling can dramatically extend lifespan in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, and fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster. In addition, there are tantalizing hints that the IGF-I pathway in mice may have similar effects. In addition to dramatic effects on lifespan, invertebrate insulin-like signaling also promotes changes in stress resistance, metabolism and development. Which, if any, of the various phenotypes of insulin pathway mutants are relevant to longevity? What are the genes that function in collaboration with insulin to prolong lifespan? These questions are at the heart of current research in C. elegans longevity. Two main theories exist as to the mechanism behind insulin's effects on invertebrate longevity. One theory is that insulin programs metabolic parameters that prolong or reduce lifespan. The other theory is that insulin determines the cell's ability to endure oxidative stress from respiration, thereby determining the rate of aging. However, these mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and several studies seem to support a role for both. Here, we review recently published reports investigating the mechanisms behind insulin's dramatic effect on longevity. We also spotlight several C. elegans genes that are now known to interact with insulin signaling to determine lifespan. These insights into pathways affecting invertebrate lifespan may provide a basis for developing strategies for pharmacological manipulation of human lifespan.
PMCID: PMC1413578  PMID: 16441841
Aging; C. elegans; FOXO; insulin; lifespan; phosphoinositol 3-kinase
20.  Endogenous ROS levels in C. elegans under exogenous stress support revision of oxidative stress theory of life-history tradeoffs 
The oxidative stress theory of life-history tradeoffs states that oxidative stress caused by damaging free radicals directly underpins tradeoffs between reproduction and longevity by altering the allocation of energetic resources between these tasks. We test this theory by characterizing the effects of exogenous oxidative insult and its interaction with thermal stress and diet quality on a suite of life-history traits and correlations in Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes. We also quantify demographic aging rates and endogenous reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels in live animals.
Our findings indicate a tradeoff between investment in reproduction and antioxidant defense (somatic maintenance) consistent with theoretical predictions, but correlations between standard life-history traits yield little evidence that oxidative stress generates strict tradeoffs. Increasing oxidative insult, however, shows a strong tendency to uncouple positive phenotypic correlations and, in particular, to reduce the correlation between reproduction and lifespan. We also found that mild oxidative insult results in lower levels of endogenous ROS accompanied by hormetic changes in lifespan, demographic aging, and reproduction that disappear in combined-stress treatments--consistent with the oxidative stress theory of aging.
Our findings demonstrate that oxidative stress is a direct contributor to life-history trait variation and that traditional tradeoffs are not necessary to invoke oxidative stress as a mediator of relationships between life-history traits, supporting previous calls for revisions to theory.
PMCID: PMC4222818  PMID: 25056725
Aging; Fitness; Free radicals; Lifespan; Resource allocation
21.  The GATA Transcription Factor egl-27 Delays Aging by Promoting Stress Resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(12):e1003108.
Stress is a fundamental aspect of aging, as accumulated damage from a lifetime of stress can limit lifespan and protective responses to stress can extend lifespan. In this study, we identify a conserved Caenorhabditis elegans GATA transcription factor, egl-27, that is involved in several stress responses and aging. We found that overexpression of egl-27 extends the lifespan of wild-type animals. Furthermore, egl-27 is required for the pro-longevity effects from impaired insulin/IGF-1 like signaling (IIS), as reduced egl-27 activity fully suppresses the longevity of worms that are mutant for the IIS receptor, daf-2. egl-27 expression is inhibited by daf-2 and activated by pro-longevity factors daf-16/FOXO and elt-3/GATA, suggesting that egl-27 acts at the intersection of IIS and GATA pathways to extend lifespan. Consistent with its role in IIS signaling, we found that egl-27 is involved in stress response pathways. egl-27 expression is induced in the presence of multiple stresses, its targets are significantly enriched for many types of stress genes, and altering levels of egl-27 itself affects survival to heat and oxidative stress. Finally, we found that egl-27 expression increases between young and old animals, suggesting that increased levels of egl-27 in aged animals may act to promote stress resistance. These results identify egl-27 as a novel factor that links stress and aging pathways.
Author Summary
Stress is a fundamental aspect of aging, but it is unclear whether the molecular mechanisms underlying stress response become altered during normal aging and whether these alterations can affect the aging process. In this study, we found a GATA transcription factor called egl-27, whose targets are significantly enriched for age-dependent genes and stress response genes, and whose expression increases with age. In contrast to previous work describing factors that are causal for aging, we found that egl-27 activity is likely beneficial for survival since egl-27 overexpression extends lifespan. egl-27 promotes longevity by enhancing stress response; specifically, increased levels of egl-27 protect animals against heat stress, while reduced egl-27 activity impairs survival following heat and oxidative stress. These results suggest that aging is not simply a process of constant decline. Some factors, such as egl-27, are more active in old animals, working to restore organismal function and to improve survival.
PMCID: PMC3521710  PMID: 23271974
22.  Oxidative Stress Is Not a Major Contributor to Somatic Mitochondrial DNA Mutations 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1003974.
The accumulation of somatic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations is implicated in aging and common diseases of the elderly, including cancer and neurodegenerative disease. However, the mechanisms that influence the frequency of somatic mtDNA mutations are poorly understood. To develop a simple invertebrate model system to address this matter, we used the Random Mutation Capture (RMC) assay to characterize the age-dependent frequency and distribution of mtDNA mutations in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Because oxidative stress is a major suspect in the age-dependent accumulation of somatic mtDNA mutations, we also used the RMC assay to explore the influence of oxidative stress on the somatic mtDNA mutation frequency. We found that many of the features associated with mtDNA mutations in vertebrates are conserved in Drosophila, including a comparable somatic mtDNA mutation frequency (∼10−5), an increased frequency of mtDNA mutations with age, and a prevalence of transition mutations. Only a small fraction of the mtDNA mutations detected in young or old animals were G∶C to T∶A transversions, a signature of oxidative damage, and loss-of-function mutations in the mitochondrial superoxide dismutase, Sod2, had no detectable influence on the somatic mtDNA mutation frequency. Moreover, a loss-of-function mutation in Ogg1, which encodes a DNA repair enzyme that removes oxidatively damaged deoxyguanosine residues (8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine), did not significantly influence the somatic mtDNA mutation frequency of Sod2 mutants. Together, these findings indicate that oxidative stress is not a major cause of somatic mtDNA mutations. Our data instead suggests that somatic mtDNA mutations arise primarily from errors that occur during mtDNA replication. Further studies using Drosophila should aid in the identification of factors that influence the frequency of somatic mtDNA mutations.
Author Summary
Mitochondria are the evolutionary remnants of bacteria that were acquired by the cells of our ancestors more than a billion years ago and now produce virtually all of the cellular energy. Due to their bacterial ancestry, mitochondria have their own genomes, which encode some of the machinery responsible for producing energy. These genes occasionally acquire mutations—irreversible alterations that can adversely affect the energy production machinery. The accumulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations is thought to cause aging and common age-related diseases, but we know little about the factors that influence the frequency of these mutations. Our study tested whether fruit flies would serve as a good animal model to study this problem. We found that flies accumulate mtDNA mutations in a pattern similar to that of humans. We then used flies to test the long-standing theory that toxic free radicals, chemical byproducts of energy production, cause mtDNA mutations to accumulate. Our data do not support this hypothesis, and instead suggest that rare errors associated with duplicating mitochondrial genomes are primarily responsible for mtDNA mutations. In sum we demonstrate that Drosophila serves as a tractable genetic model to investigate the mechanisms that influence the frequency of somatic mtDNA mutations.
PMCID: PMC3916223  PMID: 24516391
23.  The Yeast Forkhead Transcription Factors Fkh1 and Fkh2 Regulate Lifespan and Stress Response Together with the Anaphase-Promoting Complex 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002583.
Forkhead box O (FOXO) transcription factors have a conserved function in regulating metazoan lifespan. A key function in this process involves the regulation of the cell cycle and stress responses including free radical scavenging. We employed yeast chronological and replicative lifespan assays, as well as oxidative stress assays, to explore the potential evolutionary conservation of function between the FOXOs and the yeast forkhead box transcription factors FKH1 and FKH2. We report that the deletion of both FKH genes impedes normal lifespan and stress resistance, particularly in stationary phase cells, which are non-responsive to caloric restriction. Conversely, increased expression of the FKHs leads to extended lifespan and improved stress response. Here we show the Anaphase-Promoting Complex (APC) genetically interacts with the Fkh pathway, likely working in a linear pathway under normal conditions, as fkh1Δ fkh2Δ post-mitotic survival is epistatic to that observed in apc5CA mutants. However, under stress conditions, post-mitotic survival is dramatically impaired in apc5CA fkh1Δ fkh2Δ, while increased expression of either FKH rescues APC mutant growth defects. This study establishes the FKHs role as evolutionarily conserved regulators of lifespan in yeast and identifies the APC as a novel component of this mechanism under certain conditions, likely through combined regulation of stress response, genomic stability, and cell cycle regulation.
Author Summary
Throughout human evolution, one question has remained constant: can we live forever? We are continuously bombarded with products, diets, and exercise regimens that supposedly add years to our life. Is there an alterable program, whether genetic or environmental, that can be tweaked to increase longevity? Medical advances have led to a dramatic increase in average lifespan over the last century. However, the maximum human lifespan has curiously remained constant. Recent research indicates that in many organisms a genetic program exists to control lifespan. The conservation of this genetic lifespan program extends into yeast where numerous longevity genes have been isolated and characterized. Interestingly, mutations that reduce genomic instability, glucose utilization, or oxidative damage extend lifespan in multiple organisms. Here we characterize one such set of genes, the FOXOs. In animals, these genes increase lifespan and suppress tumors, but have yet to be associated with longevity in yeast. By confirming that these genes play a similar role in yeast, we provide a tool to identify downstream factors triggered by the FOXOs, a feat which has not yet been accomplished in other systems. Considering the conservation of these factors, it is likely that our discoveries in yeast will be directly applicable to research into human cancer and aging.
PMCID: PMC3305399  PMID: 22438832
24.  Antioxidant enzyme activities are not broadly correlated with longevity in 14 vertebrate endotherm species 
Age  2010;32(2):255-270.
The free radical theory of ageing posits that accrual of oxidative damage underlies the increased cellular, tissue and organ dysfunction and failure associated with advanced age. In support of this theory, cellular resistance to oxidative stress is highly correlated with life span, suggesting that prevention or repair of oxidative damage might indeed be essential for longevity. To test the hypothesis that the prevention of oxidative damage underlies longevity, we measured the activities of the five major intracellular antioxidant enzymes in brain, heart and liver tissue of 14 mammalian and avian species with maximum life spans (MLSPs) ranging from 3 years to over 100 years. Our data set included Snell dwarf mice in which life span is increased by ∼50% compared to their normal littermates. We found that CuZn superoxide dismutase, the major cytosolic superoxide dismutase, showed no correlation with MLSP in any of the three organs. Similarly, neither glutathione peroxidase nor glutathione reductase activities correlated with MLSP. MnSOD, the sole mitochondrial superoxide dismutase in mammals and birds, was positively correlated with MLSP only for brain tissue. This same trend was observed for catalase. For all correlational data, effects of body mass and phylogenetic relatedness were removed using residual analysis and Felsenstein’s phylogenetically independent contrasts. Our results are not consistent with a causal role for intracellular antioxidant enzymes in longevity, similar to recent reports from studies utilising genetic modifications of mice (Pérez et al., Biochim Biophys Acta 1790:1005–1014, 2009). However, our results indicate a specific augmentation of reactive oxygen species neutralising activities in brain associated with longevity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-010-9131-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2861745  PMID: 20431992
Antioxidant enzyme; Life span; MLSP; Mammals; Birds; MnSOD; CuZnSOD; Catalase; Glutathione peroxidise; Glutathione reductase
25.  Expression of bovine superoxide dismutase in Drosophila melanogaster augments resistance of oxidative stress. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1991;11(2):632-640.
Superoxide dismutases (SOD) play a major role in the intracellular defense against oxygen radical damage to aerobic cells. In eucaryotes, the cytoplasmic form of the enzyme is a 32-kDa dimer containing two copper and two zinc atoms (CuZn SOD) that catalyzes the dismutation of the superoxide anion (O2-) to H2O2 and O2. Superoxide-mediated damage has been implicated in a number of biological processes, including aging and cancer; however, it is not certain whether endogenously elevated levels of SOD will reduce the pathological events resulting from such damage. To understand the in vivo relationship between an efficient dismutation of O2- and oxidative injury to biological structures, we generated transgenic strains of Drosophila melanogaster overproducing CuZn SOD. This was achieved by microinjecting Drosophila embryos with P-elements containing bovine CuZn SOD cDNA under the control of the Drosophila actin 5c gene promoter. Adult flies of the resulting transformed lines which expressed both mammalian and Drosophila CuZn SOD were then used as a novel model for evaluating the role of oxygen radicals in aging. Our data show that expression of enzymatically active bovine SOD in Drosophila flies confers resistance to paraquat, an O2(-)-generating compound. This is consistent with data on adult mortality, because there was a slight but significant increase in the mean lifespan of several of the transgenic lines. The highest level of expression of the active enzyme in adults was 1.60 times the normal value. Higher levels may have led to the formation of toxic levels of H2O2 during development, since flies that died during the process of eclosion showed an unusual accumulation of lipofuscin (age pigment) in some of their cells. In conclusion, our data show that free-radical detoxification has a minor by positive effect on mean longevity for several strains.
PMCID: PMC359714  PMID: 1899285

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