Aging as Evolution-Facilitating Program and a Biochemical Approach to Switch It Off

Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series B: Physics and Biophysics book series (NAPSB)


A concept is presented considering aging of living organisms as a final step of their ontogenetic program. It is assumed that such an aging program was invented by biological evolution to facilitate the evolutionary process. Indications are summarized suggesting that controlled production of toxic forms of oxygen (so called reactive oxygen species) by respiring intracellular organelles (mitochondria) is an obligatory component of the aging program. First results of a research project devoted to an attempt to interrupt aging program by antioxidants specifically addressed to mitochondria have been described. Within the framework of the project, antioxidants of a new type (SkQ) were synthesized. SkQs are composed of (i) plastoquinone (an antioxidant moiety), (ii) a penetrating cation, and (iii) a decane or pentane linker. Using planar bilayer phospholipid membranes, we selected SkQ derivatives of the highest penetrability, namely plastoquinonyl decyl triphenylphosphonium (SkQ1), plastoquinonyl decyl rhodamine 19 (SkQR1), and methylplastoquinonyl decyl triphenylphosphonium (SkQ3). Anti- and prooxidant properties of these substances and also of ubiquinonyl-decyl-triphenylphosphonium (MitoQ) were tested in isolated mitochondria. Micromolar concentrations of cationic quinones are found to be very strong prooxidants, but in the lower (sub-micromolar) concentrations they display antioxidant activity which decreases in the series SkQ1 = SkQR1 > SkQ3 > MitoQ. Thus, the window between the anti- and prooxidant effects is the smallest for MitoQ and the largest for SkQ1 and SkQR1. SkQ1 is rapidly reduced by complex III of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, i.e. it is a rechargeable antioxidant. Extremely low concentrations of SkQ1 and SkQR1 completely arrest the H2O2-induced apoptosis in human fibroblasts and HeLa cells (for SkQ1, C 1/2 = 8 · 10−9M). Higher concentrations of SkQ1 are required to block necrosis initiated by reactive oxygen species (ROS). In mice, SkQ1 decelerates the development of three types of accelerated aging (progeria) and also of normal aging, and this effect is especially demonstrative at early stages of aging. The same pattern is shown in invertebrates (Drosophila and Daphnia), and fungus (Podospora anserina). In mammals, the effect of SkQs on aging is accompanied by inhibition of development of such age-related diseases as osteoporosis, involution of thymus, cataract, retinopathy, etc. SkQ1 manifests a strong therapeutic action on some already pronounced retinopathies, in particular, congenital retinal dysplasia. With drops containing 250 nM SkQ1, vision is recovered in 66 of 96 animals (dogs, cats and horses) who became blind because of retinopathy. SkQ1-containing drops instilled into eyes prevent the loss of sight in rabbits suffering from experimental uveitis and restore vision to animals that had already become blind due to this pathology. A favorable effect is also achieved in experimental glaucoma in rabbits. Moreover, the pretreatment of rats with 0.2 nM SkQ1 significantly decreases the H2O2-induced arrhythmia of the isolated heart. SkQ1 strongly reduces the damaged area in myocardial infarction or stroke and prevents the death of animals from kidney infarction. In p53−/− mice, SkQ1 decreases the ROS level in the spleen cells and inhibits appearance of lymphomas which are the main cause of death of such animals. As a result, the lifespan increases. SkQs look like promising drugs to treat aging and age-related diseases.


Biological evolution aging mitochondria reactive oxygen species SkQs antioxidants 



planar bilayer phospholipid membrane


dodecyl triphenylphosphonium


demethoxyMitoQL, MitoQ, compound of ubiquinone and decyl triphenylphosphonium


reactive oxygen species


compounds of plastoquinone or methylplastoquinone and decyl (or amyl) triph-enylphosphonium, methylcarninite, or tributylammonium


compound of plastoquinone and decyl triphenylphosphonium (other SkQ derivatives are shown in Fig. 3)


transmembrane electric potential


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Bioengineering and BioinformaticsLomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical BiologyLomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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