The longest-lived genetically engineered mice are those in which growth hormone or growth hormone receptors have been diminished or removed entirely. This review looks at some of what is know about the mechanisms involved in this extended life:
Studies in mutant, gene knock-out and transgenic mice have demonstrated that growth hormone (GH) signalling has a major impact on ageing and longevity. Growth hormone-resistant and GH-deficient animals live much longer than their normal siblings, while transgenic mice overexpressing GH are short lived.
Actions of GH in juvenile animals appear to be particularly important for life extension and responsible for various phenotypic characteristics of long-lived hypopituitary mutants. Available evidence indicates that reduced GH signalling is linked to extended longevity by multiple interacting mechanisms including increased stress resistance, reduced growth, altered profiles of cytokines produced by the adipose tissue, and various metabolic adjustments such as enhanced insulin sensitivity, increased oxygen consumption (VO2/g) and reduced respiratory quotient.
The effects of removing visceral fat indicate that increased levels of adiponectin and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in GH-resistant mice are responsible for their increased insulin sensitivity. Increased VO2 apparently represents increased energy expenditure for thermogenesis, because VO2 of mutant and normal mice does not differ at thermoneutral temperature.
Recent studies identified GH- and IGF-1-dependent maintenance of bone marrow populations of very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) as another likely mechanism of delayed ageing and increased longevity of GH-deficient and GH-resistant animals. Many of the physiological characteristics of long-lived, GH-related mouse mutants are shared by exceptionally long-lived people and by individuals genetically predisposed to longevity.