Senemorphism: a novel perspective on aging patterns and its implication for diet-related biology

Biogerontology. 2012 Aug;13(4):457-66. doi: 10.1007/s10522-012-9383-6. Epub 2012 May 4.


Aging can be described as the accumulation of changes in organisms over time. Aging in organisms undergoing caloric restriction (CR) is widely considered as a slowed version of aging under ad libitum (AL) conditions. However, here we argue that aging under optimized CR is fundamentally different from aging under AL based on the following facts: (1) Comparing the two dietary groups, several age-related changes run in the opposite direction over time; (2) Switching from an AL to a CR diet clearly reverts (not only delays) several "normal" accumulated changes; (3) major causes of death are as different between both groups as they are between species. These observations support the idea that CR and AL initially modulate different metabolic and physiological programs, which exclusively over time generate two biologically different organisms. Such distinct diet-related senescence is analogous to the divergent aging processes and causes of death observed between castes of social insects, such as queens versus workers ("caste-related-senescence") and also between breeding versus non-breeding semelparous animals ("reproduction-related-senescence"). All these aging phenotypes are different not because they accumulate changes at a different rate, but because they accumulate different changes over time. Thus, the environment does not simply affect the individual aging rate through stochastic effects (e.g. U.V.) but also modulates the activation of a particular program/strategy that influences lifespan (e.g. caste, calorie intake). We refer to the environment-dependent aging patterns encoded by the genome as "senemorphism". Based on this idea we propose experimental schemes for aging, evolution and biomedical research.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Diet*
  • Environment*
  • Reproduction / physiology