The role of autophagy in aging: its essential part in the anti-aging mechanism of caloric restriction

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Oct;1114:69-78. doi: 10.1196/annals.1396.020. Epub 2007 Oct 12.


Aging denotes a postmaturational deterioration of cells and organisms with the passage of time, an increased vulnerability to challenges and prevalence of age-associated diseases, and a decreased ability to survive. Causes of this deterioration may be found in an enhanced production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative damage and incomplete "housekeeping." Caloric restriction is the most robust anti-aging intervention known so far. Similar beneficial effects on median and maximum life span were obtained by feeding animals a 40%-reduced diet or by every-other-day ad libitum feeding. In both instances, animals are forced to spend a great part of their time in a state of fasting and activated autophagy. Autophagy is a highly conserved process in eukaryotes, in which the cytoplasm, including excess or aberrant organelles, is sequestered into double-membrane vesicles and delivered to the lysosome/vacuole, for breakdown and eventual recycling of the resulting macromolecules. This process has an essential role in adaptation to fasting and changing environmental conditions, cellular remodeling during development, and accumulation of altered ROS-hypergenerating organelles in older cells. Several pieces of evidence show that autophagy is involved in aging and is an essential part of the anti-aging mechanism of caloric restriction. As an application, intensification of autophagy by the administration of an antilipolytic drug rescued older cells from accumulation of altered mtDNA in less than 6 hours. It is concluded that the pharmacologic intensification of autophagy (PISA treatment) has anti-aging effects and might prove to be a big step toward retardation of aging and prevention of age-associated diseases in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology*