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Abstract

The biological effects of urolithins remain poorly characterized, despite wide-spread human exposure via the dietary consumption of their metabolic precursors, the ellagitannins, which are found in the pomegranate fruit, as well as in nuts and berries. We identified urolithin A (UA) as a first-in-class natural compound that induces mitophagy both in vitro and in vivo following oral consumption. In C. elegans, UA prevented the accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria with age and extended lifespan. Likewise, UA prolonged normal activity during aging in C. elegans, including mobility and pharyngeal pumping, while maintaining mitochondrial respiratory capacity. These effects translated to rodents, where UA improved exercise capacity in two different mouse models of age-related decline of muscle function, as well as in young rats. Our findings highlight the health benefits of urolithin A and its potential application in strategies to improve mitochondrial and muscle function.

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Acknowledgements

We thank P. Gönczy (Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) for sharing reagents and equipment, the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center for providing worm strains and the Auwerx team members for discussions. We thank the team of the Phenotyping Unit, Center of PhenoGenomics, School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) for their technical and scientific expertise in the mouse experiments. We thank K.H. Kim (Yonsei University College of Medicine) for providing mRFP-GFP-LC3B reporter and for discussion. We thank G. Yellen (Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School) for providing mitochondrial pHRed-expressing plasmid and D. Kaiserlian (INSERM) for the Mode-K cell line. J.A. is the Nestlé Chair in Energy Metabolism. Work in the Auwerx laboratory is supported by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Systems X (SysX.ch 2013/153), and was co-financed by the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) (15171.1 PFLS-LS). L.M. was supported by a fellowship from Fondation Médicale pour la Recherche (FRM).

Author information

Author notes

    • Dongryeol Ryu
    • , Laurent Mouchiroud
    •  & Pénélope A Andreux

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Laboratory for Integrative and Systems Physiology, Interfaculty Institute of Bioengineering, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.

    • Dongryeol Ryu
    • , Laurent Mouchiroud
    • , Pénélope A Andreux
    • , Elena Katsyuba
    • , Norman Moullan
    • , Amandine A Nicolet-dit-Félix
    • , Evan G Williams
    • , Pooja Jha
    • , Giuseppe Lo Sasso
    •  & Johan Auwerx
  2. Amazentis SA, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Innovation Park, Batiment C, Lausanne, Switzerland.

    • Pénélope A Andreux
    •  & Chris Rinsch
  3. Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics, Brain Mind Institute, School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.

    • Damien Huzard
    •  & Carmen Sandi
  4. Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.

    • Patrick Aebischer

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Contributions

L.M., P.A.A., D.R., P.A., C.S., C.R. and J.A. conceived and designed the project. L.M., P.A.A., D.R., E.K., A.A.N.-d.-F., P.J., G.L.S., N.M., E.G.W. and D.H. performed the experiments. L.M., C.R., P.A.A. and J.A. wrote the manuscript, with contributions from all of the other authors.

Competing interests

P.A.A. and C.R. are employed by Amazentis; C.R. and P.A.A. are board members of Amazentis; and J.A. and C.S. are consultants to Amazentis.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Chris Rinsch or Johan Auwerx.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.4132

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