FOXO3: A Major Gene for Human Longevity--A Mini-Review

Gerontology. 2015;61(6):515-25. doi: 10.1159/000375235. Epub 2015 Mar 28.


Background: The gene FOXO3, encoding the transcription factor forkhead box O-3 (FoxO3), is one of only two for which genetic polymorphisms have exhibited consistent associations with longevity in diverse human populations.

Objective: Here, we review the multitude of actions of FoxO3 that are relevant to health, and thus healthy ageing and longevity.

Methods: The study involved a literature search for articles retrieved from PubMed using FoxO3 as keyword.

Results: We review the molecular genetics of FOXO3 in longevity, then current knowledge of FoxO3 function relevant to ageing and lifespan. We describe how FoxOs are involved in energy metabolism, oxidative stress, proteostasis, apoptosis, cell cycle regulation, metabolic processes, immunity, inflammation and stem cell maintenance. The single FoxO in Hydra confers immortality to this fresh water polyp, but as more complex organisms evolved, this role has been usurped by the need for FoxO to control a broader range of specialized pathways across a wide spectrum of tissues assisted by the advent of as many as 4 FoxO subtypes in mammals. The major themes of FoxO3 are similar, but not identical, to other FoxOs and include regulation of cellular homeostasis, particularly of stem cells, and of inflammation, which is a common theme of age-related diseases. Other functions concern metabolism, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, destruction of potentially damaging reactive oxygen species and proteostasis.

Conclusions: The mechanism by which longevity-associated alleles of FOXO3 reduce age-related mortality is currently of great clinical interest. The prospect of optimizing FoxO3 activity in humans to increase lifespan and reduce age-related diseases represents an exciting avenue of clinical investigation. Research strategies directed at developing therapeutic agents that target FoxO3, its gene and proteins in the pathway(s) FoxO3 regulates should be encouraged and supported.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Forkhead Box Protein O3
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics*


  • FOXO3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Box Protein O3
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors