Mitohormesis: Promoting Health and Lifespan by Increased Levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)

Dose Response. 2014 Jan 31;12(2):288-341. doi: 10.2203/dose-response.13-035.Ristow. eCollection 2014 May.


Increasing evidence indicates that reactive oxygen species (ROS), consisting of superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and multiple others, do not only cause oxidative stress, but rather may function as signaling molecules that promote health by preventing or delaying a number of chronic diseases, and ultimately extend lifespan. While high levels of ROS are generally accepted to cause cellular damage and to promote aging, low levels of these may rather improve systemic defense mechanisms by inducing an adaptive response. This concept has been named mitochondrial hormesis or mitohormesis. We here evaluate and summarize more than 500 publications from current literature regarding such ROS-mediated low-dose signaling events, including calorie restriction, hypoxia, temperature stress, and physical activity, as well as signaling events downstream of insulin/IGF-1 receptors, AMP-dependent kinase (AMPK), target-of-rapamycin (TOR), and lastly sirtuins to culminate in control of proteostasis, unfolded protein response (UPR), stem cell maintenance and stress resistance. Additionally, consequences of interfering with such ROS signals by pharmacological or natural compounds are being discussed, concluding that particularly antioxidants are useless or even harmful.