Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Old news: Targeting the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) to Stay Youngish

There are many strategies to remain healthy and reduce the effects of aging: healthy diet and exercise, yoga, drastically reducing calories, etc... all disappointingly slow and indirect. On the other hand, simply feeding mice the anti-rejection drug rapamycin has been shown to dramatically increase both the average and maximum life span, even when started late in life, probably by postponing death from cancer, by retarding mechanisms of aging, or both. Unfortunately, rapamycin also strongly suppresses the immune system, increasing the risk of a dangerous infection. How can we derive the benefits of rapamycin while avoiding the risks?
An endogenous inhibitor of the “Target Of Rapamycin” (TOR), and thus a candidate for the physiological rapamycin-like agent, are sestrins (Sesns), which are conserved proteins that are induced by cellular stress including by elevated adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK) or DNA damage.

Drosophila (fruit flies) have a single form of sestrin (dSesn). To define the activities of dSesn, these authors created flies with either gain- or loss-of-function dSesn mutations. Clever sleuthing with agonists and employing other mutant signaling molecules showed that TOR induces dSesn through reactive oxygen species (ROS, quenched by antioxidants such as vitamin E), jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK), and a transcription factor (FoxO). p53 was implicated but narrowly escaped the round-up of usual suspects. dSesn repaid TOR's attention by suppressing its stimulation of tissue growth. Thus dSesn is induced by TOR and suppress TOR activities, constituting a feedback inhibition system.
These authors go on to show that flies lacking dSesn suffer multiple age-related pathologies, including muscle degeneration and heart malfunction. These pathologies are prevented by activating AMPK with AICAR (5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide 1-b-D-ribofuranoside) or inhibiting TOR with rapamycin (Figure 5C shows that heart arrythmias suffered by dSesn-deficient flies are treated by feeding them AICAR, rapamycin, or vitamin E).

Forget caloric restriction, I'll take my ice cream with a statin mixin and Rapa sprinkles. Or a burger with heaping side order of sestrins.

JLee JH, Budanov AV, Park EJ, Birse R, Kim TE, Perkins GA, Ocorr K, Ellisman MH, Bodmer R, Bier E, Karin M. “Sestrin as a feedback inhibitor of TOR that prevents age-related pathologies” Science 2010 Mar 5;327(5970):1210-1.