Testing the oxidative stress hypothesis of aging in primate fibroblasts: is there a correlation between species longevity and cellular ROS production?

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012 Aug;67(8):841-52. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glr216. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


The present study was conducted to test predictions of the oxidative stress theory of aging assessing reactive oxygen species production and oxidative stress resistance in cultured fibroblasts from 13 primate species ranging in body size from 0.25 to 120 kg and in longevity from 20 to 90 years. We assessed both basal and stress-induced reactive oxygen species production in fibroblasts from five great apes (human, chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and orangutan), four Old World monkeys (baboon, rhesus and crested black macaques, and patas monkey), three New World monkeys (common marmoset, red-bellied tamarin, and woolly monkey), and one lemur (ring-tailed lemur). Measurements of cellular MitoSox fluorescence, an indicator of mitochondrial superoxide (O2(·-)) generation, showed an inverse correlation between longevity and steady state or metabolic stress-induced mitochondrial O2(·-) production, but this correlation was lost when the effects of body mass were removed, and the data were analyzed using phylogenetically independent contrasts. Fibroblasts from longer-lived primate species also exhibited superior resistance to H(2)O(2)-induced apoptotic cell death than cells from shorter-living primates. After correction for body mass and lack of phylogenetic independence, this correlation, although still discernible, fell short of significance by regression analysis. Thus, increased longevity in this sample of primates is not causally associated with low cellular reactive oxygen species generation, but further studies are warranted to test the association between increased cellular resistance to oxidative stressor and primate longevity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Line
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Haplorhini / physiology
  • Hominidae / physiology
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Oxygen