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Exp Cell Res. 1995 Apr;217(2):317-23.

Caloric restriction: conservation of in vivo cellular replicative capacity accompanies life-span extension in mice.

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Department of Pathology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 98195, USA.


In male mice of a long-lived hybrid strain (B6D2F1), long-term 40% caloric restriction (CR) extended both mean and maximum life spans by 36 and 20%, respectively, over that of ad libitum fed (AL) controls. Measurements of entry into S-phase were made in vivo of six different cell types in five different organs using 2-week exposures to BrdU. The labeling index (L.I.) in all organs studied was lower in young CR mice than in young AL fed mice. In most cases, the L.I. in AL mice fell to the levels of that in the CR mice by 13 months of age, and the two groups then remained so through old age. However, when the L.I. was measured in old CR mice which had been placed on the AL diet for a period of 4 weeks (this was termed refeeding (RF), it was found to be above that of similar age AL or CR mice and almost at the level of young AL mice. This was still true, but to a lesser degree, in a repeat study using an 8-week period of RF. In a separate but parallel in vitro study (companion paper, this volume), the superiority of CR over AL for retention of cellular replication capacity was confirmed by clone size distribution measurements made in several cell types in mice of several age groups. These results indicate that: (1) the rate of cell replication in AL diet mice diminishes greatly by early middle age in all organ sites studied and then plateaus or declines much more slowly; (2) CR broadly preserves in vivo cellular replicative capacity but often requires the energy levels provided by a switch to AL feeding to demonstrate this late in life; (3) accordingly, the replicative deficit in AL fed mice appears to be cumulative and is significant only in old age. The mechanism(s) involved is yet to be discovered but may be related to, or even the same as, that which extends life spans in CR animals. Correspondingly, and with corroborative data from our in vitro companion study, (W. R. Pendergrass et al., 1995. Exp. Cell. Res. 217, 309-316), we suggest that cell populations sustain an accrual of biochemical damage or physiological alterations which increasingly limit their replicative capacity as the animal ages, and that CR reduces the accrual of this damage.

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