Caloric restriction (CR) markedly extends life span and improves the health of a broad number of species. Energy metabolism fundamentally contributes to the beneficial effects of CR, but the underlying mechanisms that are responsible for this effect remain enigmatic. A multidisciplinary approach that involves quantitative proteomics, immunochemistry, metabolic quantification, and life span analysis was used to determine how CR, which occurs in the Caenorhabditis elegans eat-2 mutants, modifies energy metabolism of the worm, and whether the observed modifications contribute to the CR-mediated physiological responses. A switch to fatty acid metabolism as an energy source and an enhanced rate of energy metabolism by eat-2 mutant nematodes were detected. Life span analyses validated the important role of these previously unknown alterations of energy metabolism in the CR-mediated longevity of nematodes. As observed in mice, the overexpression of the gene for the nematode analog of the cytosolic form of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase caused a marked extension of the life span in C. elegans, presumably by enhancing energy metabolism via an altered rate of cataplerosis of tricarboxylic acid cycle anions. We conclude that an increase, not a decrease in fuel consumption, via an accelerated oxidation of fuels in the TCA cycle is involved in life span regulation; this mechanism may be conserved across phylogeny.
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