Studies in a variety of model organisms indicate that nutrient signaling is tightly coupled to longevity. In nutrient replete conditions, organisms develop, grow, and age quickly. When nutrients become sparse as with dietary restriction, growth and development decline, stress response pathways become induced and organisms live longer. Considerable effort has been devoted to understanding the molecular events mediating lifespan extension by dietary restriction.
Can we extend human lifespan? Do we need to regulate lifestyle choices or can we simply pop a pill to make us live longer? These are questions raised by two new studies demonstrating significant lifespan extension in mice fed the drug rapamycin in their diet and in calorically restricted rhesus monkeys.
TOR (target of rapamycin) is a serine-threonine protein kinase that is conserved across a diverse range of species from fungi to mammals. The signaling pathway that is anchored by TOR is also conserved across species. In mammals, mTOR integrates growth factor, amino acid, nutrient and energy sensing signals, and thus plays a major role in cell growth and proliferation, protein synthesis and autophagy.
Dietary restriction (DR) is a robust nongenetic, nonpharmacological intervention that is known to increase active and healthy lifespan in a variety of species. Despite a variety of differences in the protocols and the way DR is carried out in different species, conserved relationships are emerging among multiple species. 2009 saw the field of DR mature with important mechanistic insights from multiple species. A report of lifespan extension in rapamycin-treated mice suggested that the TOR pathway, a conserved mediator of DR in invertebrates, may also be critical to DR effects in mammals.
Although it has been known since 1917 that calorie restriction (CR) decelerates aging, the topic remains highly controversial. What might be the reason? Here I discuss that the anti-aging effect of CR rules out accumulation of DNA damage and failure of maintenance as a cause of aging. Instead, it suggests that aging is driven in part by the nutrient-sensing TOR (target of rapamycin) network. CR deactivates the TOR pathway, thus slowing aging and delaying diseases of aging.
Signaling by target of rapamycin (mTOR in mammals) has been shown to modulate lifespan in several model organisms ranging from yeast to mice. In mice, reduced mTOR signaling by chronic rapamycin treatment leads to life span extension, raising the possibility that rapamycin and its analogs may benefit the aging brain and serve as effective treatments of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we review mTOR signaling and how neurons utilize mTOR to regulate brain function, including regulation of feeding, synaptic plasticity and memory formation.
Growth and somatic maintenance are thought to be antagonistic piciotropic traits, but the molecular basis for this tradeoff is poorly understood. Here it is proposed that changes in protein synthesis mediate the tradeoffs that take place upon genetic and environmental manipulation in various model systems including yeast, worms, flies and mice. This hypothesis is supported by evidence that inhibition of the TOR (target of rapamycin) pathway and various translation factors that inhibit protein synthesis lead to slowing of growth and development but extend lifespan.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Studies in invertebrate model organisms have led to a wealth of knowledge concerning the ageing process. But which of these discoveries will apply to ageing in humans? Recently, an assessment of the degree of conservation of ageing pathways between two of the leading invertebrate model organisms, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Caenorhabditis elegans, was completed. The results (i) quantitatively indicated that pathways were conserved between evolutionarily disparate invertebrate species and (ii) emphasized the importance of the TOR kinase pathway in ageing.
BACKGROUND: Recent studies have demonstrated that activation of autophagy increases the lifespan of organisms from yeast to flies. In contrast to the lifespan extension effect in lower organisms, it has been reported that overexpression of unc-51-like kinase 3 (ULK3), the mammalian homolog of autophagy-specific gene 1 (ATG1), induces premature senescence in human fibroblasts. Therefore, we assessed whether the activation of autophagy would genuinely induce premature senescence in human cells.
The target of rapamycin (TOR) is a crucial intracellular regulator of the immune system. Recent studies have suggested that immunosuppression by TOR inhibition may be mediated by modulating differentiation of both effector and regulatory CD4 T cell subsets. However, it was paradoxically shown that inhibiting TOR signaling has immunostimulatory effects on the generation of long-lived memory CD8 T cells. Beneficial effects of TOR inhibition have also been observed with dendritic cells and hematopoietic stem cells.