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PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e69720. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069720. Epub 2013 Jul 22.

Mitochondrial autophagy involving renal injury and aging is modulated by caloric intake in aged rat kidneys.

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Department of Nephrology, State Key Laboratory of Kidney Diseases, Chinese PLA General Hospital and Medical College, Beijing, China.



A high-calorie (HC) diet induces renal injury and promotes aging, and calorie restriction (CR) may ameliorate these responses. However, the effects of long-term HC and CR on renal damage and aging have been not fully determined. Autophagy plays a crucial role in removing protein aggregates and damaged organelles to maintain intracellular homeostasis and function. The role of autophagy in HC-induced renal damage is unknown.


We evaluated the expression of LC3/Atg8 as a marker of the autophagosome; p62/SQSTM1; polyubiquitin aggregates as markers of autophagy flux; Ambra1, PINK1, Parkin and Bnip3 as markers of mitophagy; 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) as a marker of DNA oxidative damage; and p16 as a marker of organ aging by western blot and immunohistochemical staining in the kidneys of 24-month-old Fischer 344 rats. We also observed mitochondrial structure and autolysosomes by transmission electron microscopy.


Expression of the autophagosome formation marker LC3/Atg8 and markers of mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) were markedly decreased in the kidneys of the HC group, and markedly increased in CR kidneys. p62/SQSTM1 and polyubiquitin aggregates increased in HC kidneys, and decreased in CR kidneys. Transmission electron microscopy demonstrated that HC kidneys showed severe abnormal mitochondrial morphology with fewer autolysosomes, while CR kidneys exhibited normal mitochondrial morphology with numerous autolysosomes. The level of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine was increased in HC kidneys and decreased in CR kidneys. Markers of aging, such as p16 and senescence-associated-galactosidase, were increased significantly in the HC group and decreased significantly in the CR group.


The study firstly suggests that HC diet inhibits renal autophagy and aggravates renal oxidative damage and aging, while CR enhances renal autophagy and ameliorates oxidative damage and aging in the kidneys.

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