Autophagy and cardiovascular aging: lesson learned from rapamycin

Cell Cycle. 2012 Jun 1;11(11):2092-9. doi: 10.4161/cc.20317. Epub 2012 Jun 1.


The biological aging process is commonly associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Several theories have been put forward for aging-associated deterioration in ventricular function, including attenuation of growth hormone (insulin-like growth factors and insulin) signaling, loss of DNA replication and repair, histone acetylation and accumulation of reactive oxygen species. Recent evidence has depicted a rather unique role of autophagy as another important pathway in the regulation of longevity and senescence. Autophagy is a predominant cytoprotective (rather than self-destructive) process. It carries a prominent role in determination of lifespan. Reduced autophagy has been associated with aging, leading to accumulation of dysfunctional or damaged proteins and organelles. To the contrary, measures such as caloric restriction and exercise may promote autophagy to delay aging and associated comorbidities. Stimulation of autophagy using rapamycin may represent a novel strategy to prolong lifespan and combat aging-associated diseases. Rapamycin regulates autophagy through inhibition of the nutrient-sensing molecule mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Inhibition of mTOR through rapamycin and caloric restriction promotes longevity. The purpose of this review is to recapitulate some of the recent advances in an effort to better understand the interplay between rapamycin-induced autophagy and decelerating cardiovascular aging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology*
  • Somatomedins / metabolism
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Somatomedins
  • MTOR protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Sirolimus