Inhibition of PAPP-A is one of the many interventions capable of slowing aging in mice. Being able to slow aging and understanding how exactly that outcome is achieved are two very different things, however. Many of the age-slowing interventions demonstrated in animal studies remain quite poorly understood, insofar as identifying which of the many alterations in metabolism that they cause are important to the progression of aging. Obtaining that understanding is a slow, expensive undertaking, and this hurdle is a roadblock to any further development of these interventions. This challenge is one of the reasons why many of us think it better for the development of practical therapies to start at the other end of aging, at the known root causes, rather than working backwards from metabolic alterations shown to extend life.
Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) is a secreted metalloprotease that increases insulin-like growth factor (IGF) availability by cleaving IGF-binding proteins. Reduced IGF signaling extends longevity in multiple species, and consistent with this, PAPP-A deletion extends lifespan and healthspan; however, the mechanism remains unclear.
To clarify PAPP-A's role, we developed a PAPP-A neutralizing antibody and treated adult mice with it. Transcriptomic profiling across tissues showed that anti-PAPP-A reduced IGF signaling and extracellular matrix (ECM) gene expression system wide. The greatest reduction in IGF signaling occurred in the bone marrow, where we found reduced bone, marrow adiposity, and myelopoiesis. These diverse effects led us to search for unifying mechanisms.
We identified mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) as the source of PAPP-A in bone marrow and primary responders to PAPP-A inhibition. Mice treated with anti-PAPP-A had reduced IGF signaling in MSCs and dramatically decreased MSC number. As MSCs are (1) a major source of ECM and the progenitors of ECM-producing fibroblasts, (2) the originating source of adult bone, (3) regulators of marrow adiposity, and (4) an essential component of the hematopoietic niche, our data suggest that PAPP-A modulates bone marrow homeostasis by potentiating the number and activity of MSCs.
We found that MSC-like cells are the major source of PAPP-A in other tissues also, suggesting that reduced MSC-like cell activity drives the system-wide reduction in ECM gene expression due to PAPP-A inhibition. Dysregulated ECM production is associated with aging and drives age-related diseases, and thus, this may be a mechanism by which PAPP-A deficiency enhances longevity.