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Exp Gerontol. 2003 Jun;38(6):631-9.

An in vitro model of caloric restriction.

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Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology, National Institute on Aging-Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224-6825, USA.


The mechanisms underlying the ability of caloric restriction (CR) to extend life span and enhance stress responsiveness remain elusive. Progress in this area has been slow due to the complexities of using animals for CR studies and assessing life span as the measure of CR effectiveness. It is therefore of great interest to develop in vitro models of CR. Here we use sera obtained from either Fisher 344 rats or Rhesus monkeys that were fed ad libitum (AL) or CR diets to culture various cell types. We show that treatment of cultured cells with CR sera caused reduced cell proliferation, enhanced tolerance to oxidants and heat, and heightened expression of stress-response genes. These phenotypic features mirror the effects of CR in animals. Supplementation of CR serum with insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 partially restored the proliferative and stress-response phenotype that was seen in cells cultured with AL serum, indicating that reduced levels of insulin and IGF-1 likely contribute to the CR-related effects. This in vitro cell culture model recapitulates key in vivo proliferative and stress-response phenotypic features of CR, and further suggests that endocrine mechanisms contribute to the enhanced stress responsiveness observed in CR animals.

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