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Mech Ageing Dev. 1996 Jan 5;86(1):53-66.

Low fatty acid unsaturation protects against lipid peroxidation in liver mitochondria from long-lived species: the pigeon and human case.

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Department of Animal Biology-II, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain.


Birds have a much higher maximum longevity (MLSP) than mammals of similar metabolic rate. Recent data showed that pigeon mitochondria produce oxygen radicals at a rate much slower than rat mitochondria, in spite of showing similar levels of oxygen consumption (Free Rad. Res., 21 (1994) 317-328). Since oxidative damage from and to mitochondria seems important in relation to aging and longevity, and mitochondrial membranes are situated at the place where oxygen radicals are generated, we studied protein and lipid peroxidation and fatty acid composition of the three main membrane phospholipids of liver mitochondria from rats (MLSP = 4 years) and pigeons (MLSP = 35 years). It was found that pigeon mitochondria show lower levels of fatty acid unsaturation than rat mitochondria in the three lipid fractions, mainly due to a substitution of highly unsaturated fatty acids (20:4 and 22:6) by linoleic acid (18:2), and that these mitochondria are more resistant to lipid peroxidation. Previous research has also obtained exactly the same major difference in fatty acid composition in human mitochondria when compared to those of rat. Thus, present information suggests that the liver mitochondrial membranes of especially long-lived species show both a low level of free radical production and a low degree of fatty acid unsaturation as important constitutive protective traits to slow down aging.

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