Understanding mechanisms of aging and determinants of life span will help to reduce age-related morbidity and facilitate healthy aging. Average lifespan has increased over the last centuries, as a consequence of medical and environmental factors, but maximal life span remains unchanged. Extension of maximal life span is currently possible in animal models with measures such as genetic manipulations and caloric restriction (CR). CR appears to prolong life by reducing reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated oxidative damage. But ROS formation, which is positively implicated in cellular stress response mechanisms, is a highly regulated process controlled by a complex network of intracellular signaling pathways. By sensing the intracellular nutrient and energy status, the functional state of mitochondria, and the concentration of ROS produced in mitochondria, the longevity network regulates life span across species by co-ordinating information flow along its convergent, divergent and multiply branched signaling pathways, including vitagenes which are genes involved in preserving cellular homeostasis during stressful conditions. Vitagenes encode for heat shock proteins (Hsp) Hsp32, Hsp70, the thioredoxin and the sirtuin protein systems. Dietary antioxidants, such as carnosine, carnitines or polyphenols, have recently been demonstrated to be neuroprotective through the activation of hormetic pathways, including vitagenes. The hormetic dose-response, challenges long-standing beliefs about the nature of the dose-response in a lowdose zone, having the potential to affect significantly the design of pre-clinical studies and clinical trials as well as strategies for optimal patient dosing in the treatment of numerous diseases. Given the broad cytoprotective properties of the heat shock response there is now strong interest in discovering and developing pharmacological agents capable of inducing stress responses. In this review we discuss the most current and up to date understanding of the possible signaling mechanisms by which caloric restriction, as well hormetic caloric restriction-mimetics compounds by activating vitagenes can enhance defensive systems involved in bioenergetic and stress resistance homeostasis with consequent impact on longevity processes.
- Caloric Restriction