Cell divisions and mammalian aging: integrative biology insights from genes that regulate longevity

Bioessays. 2008 Jun;30(6):567-78. doi: 10.1002/bies.20760.


Despite recent progress in the identification of genes that regulate longevity, aging remains a mysterious process. One influential hypothesis is the idea that the potential for cell division and replacement are important factors in aging. In this work, we review and discuss this perspective in the context of interventions in mammals that appear to accelerate or retard aging. Rather than focus on molecular mechanisms, we interpret results from an integrative biology perspective of how gene products affect cellular functions, which in turn impact on tissues and organisms. We review evidence suggesting that mutations that give rise to features resembling premature aging tend to be associated with cellular phenotypes such as increased apoptosis or premature replicative senescence. In contrast, many interventions in mice that extend lifespan and might delay aging, including caloric restriction, tend to either hinder apoptosis or result in smaller animals and thus may be the product of fewer cell divisions. Therefore, it appears plausible that changes in the number of times that cells, and particularly stem cells, divide during an organism's lifespan influence longevity and aging. We discuss possible mechanisms related to this hypothesis and propose experimental paradigms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging, Premature / genetics
  • Aging, Premature / pathology
  • Animals
  • Cell Division / genetics*
  • Cockayne Syndrome / genetics
  • Cockayne Syndrome / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Systems Biology
  • Systems Theory