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Life Extension Magazine


February 2010

Mitochondrial function, fibre types and ageing: new insights from human muscle in vivo.

Mitochondrial changes are at the centre of a wide range of maladies, including diabetes, neurodegeneration and ageing-related dysfunctions. Here we describe innovative optical and magnetic resonance spectroscopic methods that non-invasively measure key mitochondrial fluxes, ATP synthesis and O(2) uptake, to permit the determination of mitochondrial coupling efficiency in vivo (P/O: half the ratio of ATP flux to O(2) uptake). Three new insights result. First, mitochondrial coupling can be measured in vivo with the rigor of a biochemical determination and provides a gold standard to define well-coupled mitochondria (P/O approximately 2.5). Second, mitochondrial coupling differs substantially among muscles in healthy adults, from values reflective of well-coupled oxidative phosphorylation in a hand muscle (P/O = 2.7) to mild uncoupling in a leg muscle (P/O = 2.0). Third, these coupling differences have an important impact on cell ageing. We found substantial uncoupling and loss of cellular [ATP] in a hand muscle indicative of mitochondrial dysfunction with age. In contrast, stable mitochondrial function was found in a leg muscle, which supports the notion that mild uncoupling is protective against mitochondrial damage with age. Thus, greater mitochondrial dysfunction is evident in muscles with higher type II muscle fibre content, which may be at the root of the preferential loss of type II fibres found in the elderly. Our results demonstrate that mitochondrial function and the tempo of ageing varies among human muscles in the same individual. These technical advances, in combination with the range of mitochondrial properties available in human muscles, provide an ideal system for studying mitochondrial function in normal tissue and the link between mitochondrial defects and cell pathology in disease.

Exp Physiol. 2007 Mar;92(2):333-9

Mitochondrial dysfunction in cardiac disease: ischemia—reperfusion, aging, and heart failure.

Mitochondria contribute to cardiac dysfunction and myocyte injury via a loss of metabolic capacity and by the production and release of toxic products. This article discusses aspects of mitochondrial structure and metabolism that are pertinent to the role of mitochondria in cardiac disease. Generalized mechanisms of mitochondrial-derived myocyte injury are also discussed, as are the strengths and weaknesses of experimental models used to study the contribution of mitochondria to cardiac injury. Finally, the involvement of mitochondria in the pathogenesis of specific cardiac disease states (ischemia, reperfusion, aging, ischemic preconditioning, and cardiomyopathy) is addressed.

Mol Cell Cardiol. 2001 Jun;33(6):1065-89

Mitochondrial dysfunction and age.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Mito-chondrial dysfunction is commonly thought to result from oxidative damage that leads to defects in the electron transport chain (ETC). In this review, we highlight new research indicating that there are early changes in mitochondrial function that precede ETC defects and are reversible thereby providing the possibility of slowing the tempo of mitochondrial aging and cell death. RECENT FINDINGS: Increased mitochondrial uncoupling - reduced adenosine triphosphate (ATP) produced per O2 uptake - and cell ATP depletion are evident in human muscle nearly a decade before accumulation of irreversible DNA damage that causes ETC defects. New evidence points to reduction in activators of biogenesis (e.g. PGC-1alpha) and to degradation of mitochondria allowing accumulation of molecular and membrane damage in aged mitochondria. The early dysfunction appears to be reversible based on improved mitochondrial function in vivo and elevated gene expression levels after exercise training. SUMMARY: New molecular and in vivo findings regarding the onset and reversibility of mitochondrial dysfunction with age indicate the potential: 1) for diagnostic tools to identify patients at risk for severe irreversible defects later in life; and 2) of an intervention to delay the tempo of aging and improve the quality of life of the elderly.

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2007 Nov;10(6):688-92

(R)-alpha-lipoic acid-supplemented old rats have improved mitochondrial function, decreased oxidative damage, and increased metabolic rate.

A diet supplemented with (R)-lipoic acid, a mitochondrial coenzyme, was fed to old rats to determine its efficacy in reversing the decline in metabolism seen with age. Young (3 to 5 months) and old (24 to 26 months) rats were fed an AIN-93M diet with or without (R)-lipoic acid (0.5% w/w) for 2 wk, killed, and their liver parenchymal cells were isolated. Hepatocytes from untreated old rats vs. young controls had significantly lower oxygen consumption (P<0. 03) and mitochondrial membrane potential. (R)-Lipoic acid supplementation reversed the age-related decline in O2 consumption and increased (P<0.03) mitochondrial membrane potential. Ambulatory activity, a measure of general metabolic activity, was almost threefold lower in untreated old rats vs. controls, but this decline was reversed (P<0.005) in old rats fed (R)-lipoic acid. The increase of oxidants with age, as measured by the fluorescence produced on oxidizing 2’,7’-dichlorofluorescin, was significantly lowered in (R)-lipoic acid supplemented old rats (P<0.01). Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, an indicator of lipid peroxidation, were increased fivefold with age in cells from unsupplemented rats. Feeding rats the (R)-lipoic acid diet reduced MDA levels markedly (P<0.01). Both glutathione and ascorbic acid levels declined in hepatocytes with age, but their loss was completely reversed with (R)-lipoic acid supplementation. Thus, (R)-lipoic acid supplementation improves indices of metabolic activity as well as lowers oxidative stress and damage evident in aging.

FASEB J. 1999 Feb;13(2):411-8

Oxidative damage and mitochondrial decay in aging.

We argue for the critical role of oxidative damage in causing the mitochondrial dysfunction of aging. Oxidants generated by mitochondria appear to be the major source of the oxidative lesions that accumulate with age. Several mitochondrial functions decline with age. The contributing factors include the intrinsic rate of proton leakage across the inner mitochondrial membrane (a correlate of oxidant formation), decreased membrane fluidity, and decreased levels and function of cardiolipin, which supports the function of many of the proteins of the inner mitochondrial membrane. Acetyl-L-carnitine, a high-energy mitochondrial substrate, appears to reverse many age-associated deficits in cellular function, in part by increasing cellular ATP production. Such evidence supports the suggestion that age-associated accumulation of mitochondrial deficits due to oxidative damage is likely to be a major contributor to cellular, tissue, and organismal aging.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Nov 8;91(23):10771-8

Mitochondrial decay in hepatocytes from old rats: membrane potential declines, heterogeneity and oxidants increase.

Mitochondrial function during aging was assessed in isolated rat hepatocytes to avoid the problem of differential lysis when old, fragile mitochondria are isolated. Rhodamine 123, a fluorescent dye that accumulates in mitochondria on the basis of their membrane potential, was used as a probe to determine whether this key function is affected by aging. A marked fluorescent heterogeneity was observed in hepatocytes from old (20-28 months) but not young (3-5 months) rats, suggesting age-associated alterations in mitochondrial membrane potential, the driving force for ATP synthesis. Three distinct cell subpopulations were separated by centrifugal elutriation; each exhibited a unique rhodamine 123 fluorescence pattern, with the largest population from old rats having significantly lower fluorescence than that seen in young rats. This apparent age-associated alteration in mitochondrial membrane potential was confirmed by measurements with radioactive tetraphenylphosphonium bromide. Cells from young rats had a calculated membrane potential of -154 mV, in contrast to that of the three subpopulations from old rats of -70 mV (the largest population), -93 mV, and -154 mV. Production of oxidants was examined using 2’,7’dichlorofluorescin, a dye that forms a fluorescent product upon oxidation. The largest cell subpopulation and a minor one from old animals produced significantly more oxidants than cells from young rats. To investigate the molecular cause(s) for the heterogeneity, we determined the levels of an age-associated mtDNA deletion. No significant differences were seen in the three subpopulations, indicating that the mitochondrial decay is due to other mutations, epigenetic changes, or both.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 1;94(7):3064-9

Age-dependent modifications in rat hepatocyte antioxidant defense systems.

BACKGROUND/AIMS: Age-dependent changes in the hepatic antioxidant systems were studied in hepatocytes from newly weaned (21 days) to 30-month-old rats. RESULTS: Biphasic changes were observed in superoxide dismutase (SOD), glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH) and malic enzyme (ME), in which noticeable decreases were detected in hepatocytes from newly weaned to 6-month-old rats: Cu-Zn SOD decreased to 46% (p < 0.001), Mn SOD to 41% (p < 0.001), G6PDH to 71% and ME to 19% (p < 0,001), and significant increases were observed from 6 to 30 months. In hepatocytes from 6- to 30- month-old rats the enzymes involved in antioxidant defense underwent increases in their activities as well in their mRNA: Cu-Zn SOD (142%, p < 0.001), catalase (182%, p < 0.001) and glutathione peroxidase (325%, p < 0.001). However, chronological decreases were observed in the levels of reduced glutathione (69%, p < 0.001), in the GSH/GSSG ratio (78%) and in protein thiol groups (55%, p < 0.001), with concomitant increases in peroxides (155%, p < 0.001) and malondialdehyde (142%, p < 0.001) levels. DNA ploidy was also assayed by flow cytometry; a sharp increase in tetraploid (2.5-40.1%, p < 0.001) and octoploid (0.1-16.1%; p < 0.001) populations, and a noticeable decrease in diploid hepatocytes (92.9-34.3%; p < 0.001), were observed. Populations involved in 2C-->4C DNA synthesis decreased from 3.6 to 0.9% (p < 0.001), while those involved in 4C-->8C increased from 0.9% to 5.2% (p < 0.001). A hypodiploid population (apoptotic cells) was detected from 12 months, increasing thereafter. CONCLUSIONS: These results show that the antioxidant cell defense system increases with age but the rate of reactive oxygen species generation exceeds the induced antioxidant ability, generating a situation that favors oxidative stress and peroxidation. The progressive polyploidization is accompanied by changes in the proliferative potential that decreases from 2C to 4C and increased from 4C to 8C. The relationship between the modifications of the oxidant/antioxidant system and increased polyploidy is not clear and may be interpreted as two independent manifestations of the aging process.

J Hepatol. 1997 Sep;27(3):525-34

Lipid peroxidation and antioxidant status in experimental animals: effects of aging and hypercholesterolemic diet.

Effects of aging and hypercholesterolemic diet on lipid peroxidation and antioxidant status were investigated in rats. The rats were divided into four groups of ten: Group I; young rats receiving standard lab chow; Group II; young rats on hypercholesterolemic diet (0.4 g/rat/day); Group III; aged rates receiving standard lab chow; Group IV; aged rats on hypercholesterolemic diet (0.4 g/rat/day). Plasma lipid peroxidation end product level was determined as thiobarbutiric acid reactive substances (TBARS). Plasma cholesterol concentration was analyzed by a kinetic enzymatic method. Erythrocyte superoxide dismutase (CuZn SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH Px) and glutathione (GSH) levels were determined spectrophotometrically. Cholesterol values were found to be significantly high (p < 0.001), TBARS (0.05 > p > 0.02) and GSH (p < 0.001) levels significantly low in aged rats in comparison with young rats. Hypercholesterolemic diet induced significant increases in GSH (p < 0.001) and CuZn SOD (p < 0.001) levels, whereas a significant decrease in GSH Px activity (0.05 > p > 0.02) was observed in aged rats. In young rats hypercholesterolemic diet caused a significant increase in both GSH and CuZnSOD levels. Our results indicate an imbalance between radical production and destruction in favour of prooxidant conditions in the young rats and the induction by hypercholesterolemic diet of the antioxidative response in erythrocytes.

Clin Chim Acta. 1997 Sep 8;265(1):77-84

Mitochondrial abnormalities in muscle and other aging cells: classification, causes, and effects.

The involvement of mitochondria and of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the aging process has generated much interest and even more controversy. The mitochondrial theory of aging considers a vicious circle consisting of: (1) accumulation of somatic mtDNA mutations; (2) impairment of respiratory chain function; (3) increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in mitochondria; and (4) further damage to mtDNA. We review the evidence for and against the belief that these steps occur in aging muscle and brain, considering separately morphological, biochemical, and molecular data. The relationship between mitochondrial aging and late-onset neurodegenerative diseases is briefly reviewed. We conclude that mitochondrial dysfunction does play a crucial role in the aging process of both muscle and brain, but it remains unclear whether mitochondria are the culprits or mere accomplices.

Muscle Nerve. 2002 Nov;26(5):597-607

Mitochondrial aging and dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease.

Disruptions in energy metabolism have been suggested to be a prominent feature, perhaps even a fundamental component, of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These abnormalities in cerebral metabolism precede the onset of neurological dysfunction as well as gross neuropathology of AD. These changes may stem from inhibition of mitochondrial enzymes including pyruvate dehydrogenase, cytochrome c oxidase, and alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase. Several lines of evidence also suggest a role for oxidative stress in the neuropathology associated with the disease state. Because mitochondria are the major site of free radical production in cells, they are also a primary target for oxidative damage and subsequent dysfunction. This link between mitochondrial dysfunction and the pathophysiology of AD is supported by several lines of evidence.

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Mar;29(3):407-10