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Age (Dordr). 2012 Apr;34(2):329-39. doi: 10.1007/s11357-011-9237-1. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

Age-related changes in the function of autophagy in rat kidneys.

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Department of Nephrology, Chinese PLA Institute, Beijing, China.


Autophagy is a highly regulated intracellular process for the degradation of cytoplasmic components, especially protein aggregates and damaged organelles. It is essential for maintaining healthy cells. Impaired or deficient autophagy is believed to cause or contribute to aging and age-related disease. In this study, we investigated the effects of age on autophagy in the kidneys of 3-, 12-, and 24-month-old Fischer 344 rats. The results revealed that autophagy-related gene (Atg)7 was significantly downregulated in kidneys of increasing age. The protein expression level of the autophagy marker light chain 3/Atg8 exhibited a marked decline in aged kidneys. The levels of p62/SQSTM1 and polyubiquitin aggregates, representing the function of autophagy and proteasomal degradation, increased in older kidneys. The level of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine, a marker of mitochondrial DNA oxidative damage, was also increased in older kidneys. Analysis by transmission electron microscope demonstrated swelling and disintegration of cristae in the mitochondria of aged kidneys. These results suggest that autophagic function decreases with age in the kidneys of Fischer 344 rats, and autophagy may mediate the process of kidney aging, leading to the accumulation of damaged mitochondria.

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