Extension of Drosophila lifespan by Rhodiola rosea through a mechanism independent from dietary restriction

PLoS One. 2013 May 21;8(5):e63886. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063886. Print 2013.


Rhodiola rosea has been extensively used to improve physical and mental performance and to protect against stress. We, and others, have reported that R. rosea can extend lifespan in flies, worms, and yeast. However, its molecular mechanism is currently unknown. Here, we tested whether R. rosea might act through a pathway related to dietary restriction (DR) that can extend lifespan in a range of model organisms. While the mechanism of DR itself is also unknown, three molecular pathways have been associated with it: the silent information regulator 2 (SIR2) proteins, insulin and insulin-like growth factor signaling (IIS), and the target of rapamycin (TOR). In flies, DR is implemented through a reduction in dietary yeast content. We found that R. rosea extract extended lifespan in both sexes independent of the yeast content in the diet. We also found that the extract extended lifespan when the SIR2, IIS, or TOR pathways were genetically perturbed. Upon examination of water and fat content, we found that R. rosea decreased water content and elevated fat content in both sexes, but did not sensitize flies to desiccation or protect them against starvation. There were some sex-specific differences in response to R. rosea. In female flies, the expression levels of glycolytic genes and dSir2 were down-regulated, and NADH levels were decreased. In males however, R. rosea provided no protection against heat stress and had no effect on the major heat shock protein HSP70 and actually down-regulated the mitochondrial HSP22. Our findings largely rule out an elevated general resistance to stress and DR-related pathways as mechanistic candidates. The latter conclusion is especially relevant given the limited potential for DR to improve human health and lifespan, and presents R. rosea as a potential viable candidate to treat aging and age-related diseases in humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Desiccation
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Glycolysis / drug effects
  • Glycolysis / genetics
  • Hot Temperature
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Longevity / drug effects*
  • Male
  • NAD / metabolism
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Rhodiola / chemistry*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Solubility
  • Starvation / metabolism
  • Water / metabolism
  • Yeasts


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Peptides
  • Plant Extracts
  • Water
  • NAD
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I