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Med Hypotheses. 1998 Sep;51(3):179-221.

The evolution of aging: a new approach to an old problem of biology.

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  • 1JeffBo@aol.com

Abstract

Most gerontologists believe aging did not evolve, is accidental, and is unrelated to development. The opposite viewpoint is most likely correct. Genetic drift occurs in finite populations and leads to homozygosity in multiple-alleled traits. Episodic selection events will alter random drift towards homozygosity in alleles that increase fitness with respect to the selection event. Aging increases population turnover, which accelerates the benefit of genetic drift. This advantage of aging led to the evolution of aging systems (ASs). Periodic predation was the most prevalent episodic selection pressure in evolution. Effective defenses to predation that allow exceptionally long lifespans to evolve are shells, extreme intelligence, isolation, and flight. Without episodic predation, aging provides no advantage and aging systems will be deactivated to increase reproductive potential in unrestricted environments. The periodic advantage of aging led to the periodic evolution of aging systems. Newer aging systems co-opted and added to prior aging systems. Aging organisms should have one dominant, aging system that co-opts vestiges of earlier-evolved systems as well as vestiges of prior systems. In human evolution, aging systems chronologically emerged as follows: telomere shortening, mitochondrial aging, mutation accumulation, senescent gene expression (AS#4), targeted somatic tissue apoptotic-atrophy (AS#5), and female reproductive tissue apoptotic-atrophy (AS#6). During famine or drought, to avoid extinction, reproduction is curtailed and aging is slowed or somewhat reversed to postpone or reverse reproductive senescence. AS#4-AS#6 are gradual and reversible aging systems. The life-extending/rejuvenating effects of caloric restriction support the idea of aging reversibility. Development and aging are timed by the gradual loss of cytosine methylation in the genome. Methylated cytosines (5mC) inhibit gene transcription, and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) cleavage by restriction enzymes. Cleavage inhibition prevents apoptosis, which requires DNA fragmentation. Free radicals catalyze the demethylation of 5mC while antioxidants catalyze the remethylation of cytosine by altering the activity of DNA methyltransferases. Hormones act as either surrogate free radicals by stimulating the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) pathway or as surrogate antioxidants through cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) pathway stimulation. Access to DNA containing 5mC inhibited developmental and aging genes and restriction sites is allowed by DNA helicase strand separation. Tightly wound DNA does not allow this access. The DNA helicase generates free radicals during strand separation; hormones either amplify or counteract this effect. Caloric restriction slows or reverses the aging process by increasing melatonin levels, which suppresses reproductive and free radical hormones, while increasing antioxidant hormone levels. Cell apoptosis during CR leads to somatic wasting and a release of DNA, which increases bioavailable cGMP. The rapid aging diseases of progeria, the three diseases: (xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), Cockayne syndrome(CS), and ataxia telangiectasia (AT)), and Werner's syndrome are related to or caused by defects in three separate DNA helicases. The rapid aging diseases caused by mitochondrial malfunctions mirror those seen in XP, CS, and AT. Comparing these diseases allows for assignment of the different symptoms of aging to their respective aging systems. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) demethylates the genes of AS#4, luteinizing hormone (LH) of AS#5, and estrogen of AS#6 while cortisol may act cooperatively with FSH and LH, and 5-alpha dihydrotestosterone (DHT) with FSH in these role. The Werner's DNA helicase links timing of the age of puberty, menopause, and maximum lifespan in one mechanism. Telomerase is under hormonal control. Most cancers likely result from malfunctions in the programmed apoptosis of AS#5 and AS#6. The Hayflick limit is reached primarily through loss of cytosine methylation of genes that inhibit replication. Men suffer the diseases of AS#4 at a higher rate than women who suffer from AS#5 more often. Adult mammal cloning suggests aging-related cellular demethylation, and thus aging, is reversible. This theory suggests that the protective effect of smoking and ibuprofen for Alzheimer's disease is caused through LH suppression.

PMID:
9792199
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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