A Heart That Beats for 500 Years

The ocean quahog species of Arctica islandica can live for at least 500 years and individuals appear to undergo comparatively little in the way of obvious degeneration across that span. Many species of bivalve live only a couple of years, and this very large range of life spans in similar animals has attracted researchers who wish to uncover the molecular biology that determines longevity.

Study of negligibly senescent animals may provide clues that lead to better understanding of the cardiac aging process. To elucidate mechanisms of successful cardiac aging, we investigated age-related changes in proteasome activity, oxidative protein damage and expression of heat shock proteins, inflammatory factors, and mitochondrial complexes in the heart of the ocean quahog Arctica islandica, the longest-lived noncolonial animal (maximum life span potential: 508 years).

We found that in the heart of A. islandica the level of oxidatively damaged proteins did not change significantly up to 120 years of age. No significant aging-induced changes were observed in caspase-like and trypsin-like proteasome activity. Chymotrypsin-like proteasome activity showed a significant early-life decline, then it remained stable for up to 182 years. No significant relationship was observed between the extent of protein ubiquitination and age. In the heart of A. islandica, an early-life decline in expression of HSP90 and five mitochondrial electron transport chain complexes was observed. We found significant age-related increases in the expression of three cytokine-like mediators (interleukin-6, interleukin-1β, and tumor necrosis factor-α) in the heart of A. islandica.

Collectively, in extremely long-lived molluscs, maintenance of protein homeostasis likely contributes to the preservation of cardiac function. Our data also support the concept that low-grade chronic inflammation in the cardiovascular system is a universal feature of the aging process, which is also manifest in invertebrates.

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glt201

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