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Ageing Res Rev. 2004 Nov;3(4):445-64.

A neural signaling triumvirate that influences ageing and age-related disease: insulin/IGF-1, BDNF and serotonin.

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Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, MD, USA.


The ageing process and its associated diseases all involve perturbed energy metabolism, oxidative damage, and an impaired ability of the organism and its cells to cope with adversity. We propose that some specific signaling pathways in the brain may be important determinants of health during ageing. Among such specific signaling modalities are those activated in neurons by insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and serotonin. This triumvirate may be particularly important because of their cooperative influence on energy metabolism, food intake, stress responses and cardiovascular function. The health benefits to the periphery and central nervous system of dietary restriction and exercise may be mediated by this triumvirate of signals in the brain. At the molecular level, BDNF, serotonin and IGFs can all stimulate the production of proteins involved in cellular stress adaptation, growth and repair, neurogenesis, learning and memory and cell survival. The importance of this triumvirate is emphasized when it is seen that their general roles in energy metabolism, stress adaptation and disease resistance are conserved among diverse organisms consistent with important roles in the ageing process.

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