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Lifelong restriction of dietary branched-chain amino acids has sex-specific benefits for frailty and life span in mice

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Abstract

Protein-restricted diets promote health and longevity in many species. While the precise components of a protein-restricted diet that mediate the beneficial effects to longevity have not been defined, we recently showed that many metabolic effects of protein restriction can be attributed to reduced dietary levels of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine. Here, we demonstrate that restricting dietary BCAAs increases the survival of two different progeroid mouse models, delays frailty and promotes the metabolic health of wild-type C57BL/6J mice when started in midlife, and leads to a 30% increase in life span and a reduction in frailty in male, but not female, wild-type mice when they undergo lifelong feeding. Our results demonstrate that restricting dietary BCAAs can increase health span and longevity in mice and suggest that reducing dietary BCAAs may hold potential as a translatable intervention to promote healthy aging.

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Fig. 1: Branched-chain amino acid restriction extends the life span of progeroid mice.
Fig. 2: A low BCAA diet promotes the metabolic health of aged mice.
Fig. 3: A low BCAA diet promotes healthy aging.
Fig. 4: A low BCAA diet does not extend the life span of middle-aged mice.
Fig. 5: Lifelong consumption of a low BCAA diet promotes health span and extends male life span.
Fig. 6: Transcriptional profiling of skeletal muscle identifies male-specific changes in longevity-associated signaling pathways.

Data availability

RNA-sequencing data have been deposited with the Gene Expression Omnibus and are accessible through accession number GSE155064. The data that support the plots and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Full scans of western blot images are provided as source data.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all members of the Lamming laboratory for their valuable insights and comments and C. Alexander and J. Baur for critical reading of the manuscript. We thank T. Herfel (Envigo) for assistance with the formulation of the AA-defined diets. We thank C. López-Otin and B. Kennedy for providing the LmnaG609 mutant mice and Y. Hsu and M. O’Leary for their assistance with initial genotyping of the LmnaG609 mice. We thank C. Green for assistance with analysis of RNA-sequencing data and generating panels in Fig. 6 and Extended Data Fig. 4. We apologize for any papers not cited. This work was supported in part by grants from the NIH (AG041765, AG050135, AG051974, AG056771 and AG062328 to D.W.L.), by a Glenn Foundation Award for Research in the Biological Mechanisms of Aging (to D.W.L.) and by funding from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and Department of Medicine (to D.W.L). This work was supported by a grant from the Progeria Research Foundation (to D.W.L). This research was conducted in part while D.W.L. was an AFAR Research Grant recipient from the American Federation for Aging Research. N.E.R. was supported in part by a training grant from the UW Institute on Aging (NIA T32 AG000213). H.H.P. was supported in part by a NIA F31 predoctoral fellowship (NIA F31 AG066311). V.F. was supported in part by a Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health‐Related Research (R01 AG056771-01A1S1). D.Y. was supported in part by a fellowship from the American Heart Association (17PRE33410983). The UW Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) Experimental Pathology Laboratory is supported by UWCCC support grant P30 CA014520 from the NIH National Cancer Institute. The Lamming laboratory is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (I01-BX004031), and this work was supported using facilities and resources from the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. This work does not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Experiments were performed in the Lamming and Hacker laboratories. N.E.R., T.H. and D.W.L. conceived and designed the experiments. All authors participated in performing the experiments. N.E.R., T.H. and D.W.L. analysed the data and prepared the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dudley W. Lamming.

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Competing interests

D.W.L. has received funding from, and is a scientific advisory board member of, Aeovian Pharmaceuticals, which seeks to develop new, selective mTOR inhibitors for the treatment of various diseases. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has applied for a patent for the use of BCAA-restricted diets to promote metabolic health, for which N.E.R. and D.W.L. are inventors.

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Peer review information Nature Aging thanks Matt Kaeberlein and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended Data

Extended Data Fig. 1 A Low BCAA diet promotes the metabolic health of aged wild-type mice.

a-g, Female and h-n, Male C57BL/6 J.Nia mice were fed the indicated diets beginning at 16 months of age. a, The lean mass of a subset of female mice was tracked (n varies by month; maximum N = 10 biologically independent animals for both groups; * p < 0.05 (p value by month of age: 19 mo. = 0.0091, 21.5 mo. <0.0001, 24.5 mo. = 0.0004). b, Food consumption over time calculated as total kcal/d (maximum N = 3 independent cages for both groups). c, Energy expenditure (Heat) was assessed using metabolic chambers at 20 months of age (N; Control = 20, Low BCAA = 17 biologically independent animals). d, Respiratory exchange ratio and e, ambulatory movement was assessed using metabolic chambers at 20 and 25 months of age (maximum N; Control = 20, Low BCAA = 17 biologically independent animals; * p < 0.05 (p value for d by month of age: 20 mo. light=0.0056, dark=0.0105, 25 mo. dark=0.0012). f, Area under the curve (AUC) corresponding to the glucose tolerance test in Fig. 2g as well as repeat tests performed at 19 and 24 months of age (maximum N = 20 biologically independent animals for both groups; * p < 0.05, # p < 0.1 (p value by month of age: 17 mo. = 0.0034, 19 mo. = 0.0714, 24 mo. = 0.0016). g, Insulin tolerance test and corresponding area under the curve after four weeks of diet feeding (N; Control = 20, Low BCAA = 15 biologically independent animals). h, The lean mass of a subset of male mice was tracked (n varies by month; maximum N = 20 biologically independent animals for both groups, * p = 0.0066). i, Food consumption over time calculated as total kcal/d (maximum N = 3 independent cages for both groups). j, Energy expenditure (Heat) was assessed using metabolic chambers at 25 months of age (N = 13 biologically independent animals for both groups). k, Respiratory exchange ratio and (l) ambulatory movement was assessed using metabolic chambers at 20 and 25 months of age (maximum N = 14 biologically independent animals for both groups). m, AUC corresponding to glucose tolerance test in Fig. 2m as well as repeat tests performed at 19 and 24 months of age (maximum N = 20 biologically independent animals for both groups; * p < 0.05 (p-value by month of age: 17 mo. = 0.0006, 19 mo. =0.0240, 24 mo. = 0.0026). n, Insulin tolerance test and corresponding area under the curve after four weeks of diet feeding (N; Control = 10, Low BCAA = 9 biologically independent animals; * p = 0.0192). a-b,d-f,h-i,k-m, Statistics for the overall effects of diet, age, and the interaction represent the p value from a mixed-effects model (restricted maximum likelihood [REML]) or two-way repeated measures ANOVA, multiple comparisons by two-sided Sidak’s post-test. c,j, Energy expenditure data was analysed by linear regression of energy expenditure by body weight (ANCOVA). g,n, AUC comparisons were made by two-sided t-test, * p < 0.05. Data are represented as mean ± SEM.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Effects of a lifelong Low BCAA diet on the health span of female mice.

a, Schematic showing timeline of measurements taken from male and female mice fed Control or Low BCAA diets, relevant to Fig. 5 and Extended Data Figs. 2 and 3. b-n, Wild-type female mice were placed on either Control or Low BCAA diets at weaning. b-c, The b, lean mass and c, fat mass of a subset of mice was tracked (n varies by month, maximum N; Control = 15, Low BCAA = 12 biologically independent animals). b, * p < 0.05 (p-values for by month of age: 2.75 mo. = 0.0004. 5 mo. < 0.0001, 8.5 mo. = 0.0003, 15 mo. = 0.0341). c, * p < 0.05, # p < 0.1 (p-values by month of age: 2 mo. = 0.0102, 8.5 mo. = 0.0695, 15 mo. = 0.0652). d-e, Food consumption was calculated per gram of body weight d, and by animal e, (N; Control = 4, Low BCAA = 7 biologically independent animals). f-h, Respiratory exchange ratio (f), ambulatory movement (g), and energy expenditure (heat) (h) were assessed using metabolic chambers at 5 months of age (N; Control = 6, Low BCAA = 7 biologically independent animals). i, Glucose tolerance test at 2 months of age (N; Control = 18, Low BCAA = 16 biologically independent animals; * p < 0.05 (p-value by time: 0 m = 0.0005, 15 m = 0.0120, 60 m = 0.0267), and corresponding area under the curve (AUC), also from tests performed at 3.5 and 12 months of age (maximum N; Control = 24, Low BCAA = 18 biologically independent animals; * p = 0.0063). j, Insulin tolerance test at 2.5 months of age (N; Control = 13, Low BCAA = 12 biologically independent animals), and corresponding area under the curve, also from a test at 4 months of age (N; Control = 3, Low BCAA = 4 biologically independent animals). k, Rotarod performance (n varies by month, maximum N; Control = 12, Low BCAA = 8 biologically independent animals) and l, grip strength (n varies by month, maximum N; Control = 15, Low BCAA = 12 biologically independent animals) was assessed longitudinally. m-n, Levels of m, insulin and n, fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) were measured in serum by ELISA (16 months of age; N = 4 biologically independent animals per group). b-n, Statistics for the overall effects of diet, age, and the interaction represent the p value from a mixed-effects model (restricted maximum likelihood [REML]), two-way repeated measures ANOVA, or a two-tailed, unpaired t-test in m-n; multiple comparisons by two sided Sidak’s post-test. Data are represented as mean ± SEM.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Effects of a lifelong Low BCAA diet on the healthspan of male mice.

a-m, Wild-type male mice were placed on either Control or Low BCAA diets at weaning. a-b, The a, lean mass and b, fat mass of a subset of mice was tracked (n varies by month, maximum N; Control = 11, Low BCAA = 8 biologically independent animals; * p < 0.05 (p-values for a by month of age: 2 mo. = 0.0028, 2.75 mo. = 0.0194, 5 mo. = 0.0011, 8.5 mo. = 0.0246; for b * p = 0.0095). c-d, Food consumption (N; Control = 4, Low BCAA = 6 biologically independent animals), was calculated c, per gram of body weight and d, by animal. e, Respiratory exchange ratio, f, ambulatory movement, and g, energy expenditure (heat) were assessed using metabolic chambers at 5 months of age (e-g; N = 6 biologically independent animals for both groups). h, Glucose tolerance test at 2 months of age (N; Control = 14, Low BCAA = 8 biologically independent animals), and corresponding area under the curve (AUC), also from tests performed at 3.5 and 12 months of age (maximum N; Control = 23, Low BCAA = 12 biologically independent animals; * p < 0.05 (p-values by month of age: 3.5 mo. = 0.0379, 12 mo. = 0.0054). i, Insulin tolerance test at 2.5 months of age (N; Control = 15, Low BCAA = 13 biologically independent animals), and corresponding area under the curve, also from a test at 4 months of age (maximum N; Control = 15, Low BCAA = 13 biologically independent animals). j, Rotarod performance (n varies by month, maximum N; Control = 15, Low BCAA = 12 biologically independent animals) and k, grip strength (n varies by month, maximum N; Control = 12, Low BCAA = 8 biologically independent animals) were assessed longitudinally. Levels of l, insulin and m, fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) were measured in serum by ELISA (16 months of age; N; Control = 5, Low BCAA = 4 biologically independent animals per group). a-m, Statistics for the overall effects of diet, age, and the interaction represent the p value from a mixed-effects model (restricted maximum likelihood [REML]), two-way repeated measures ANOVA, or a two-tailed, unpaired t-test in l-m; multiple comparisons by two-sided Sidak’s post-test. Data are represented as mean ± SEM.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Transcriptional profiling of skeletal muscle.

Transcriptional profiling was performed on mRNA from the skeletal muscle of male and female mice that consumed either Control or Low BCAA diets from weaning until 16 months of age (N = 6 biologically independent animals for all groups; Supplementary Tables 13 and 14). a, Workflow from raw RNA sequencing reads through data analysis and data representation. b-c, Principal component analysis for b, Control and c, Low BCAA fed groups. d, Heatmaps of differentially expressed genes by mouse from significant KEGG over-representation analysis (ORA) pathways of interest identified in Supplementary Tables 13b and 14b. DEGs were identified using an empirical Bayes moderated linear model. *Two-sided P values adjusted with the Benjamini–Hochberg procedure ORA was performed on DEGs (designated by an adjusted P value of 0.3 for female and 0.2 for male contrasts) using a one-sided hypergeometric test, and P values were adjusted using the Benjamini–Hochberg procedure.

Extended Data Fig. 5 A Low BCAA diet reduces mTORC1 activity in male, but not female, muscle.

a-b, mTORC1 activity determined by Western blotting and quantification of muscle tissue lysates from male and female mice. Young (12 months females; 15 months males) and aged (22 months females; 25 months males) mice were fed either a Control or Low BCAA diets from 6.5 months of age for young and 16 months of age for aged mice, then sacrificed following an overnight fast followed by 4 hours of refeeding. a, Male and b, Female muscle. Quantification was by ImageJ (N = 3 biologically independent animals for all groups). a-b, * p < 0.05 (p-values for (a); pS6/S6, Young CTL vs. Young LBC = 0.0025; Young CTL vs. Aged CTL = 0.0327; pS6K1/S6K1, Aged CTL vs. Aged LBC = 0.0254). Statistics for the overall effects of diet, age and the interaction represent the p value from a two-way repeated measures ANOVA, multiple comparisons by two-sided Sidak’s post-test. Full scans of the cropped western blots shown here are provided as Source Data files. CTL = Control, LBC = Low BCAA. Data are represented as mean ± SEM.

Extended Data Fig. 6 A Low BCAA diet reduces mTORC1 signaling in the liver of male mice.

a-b, mTORC1 activity determined by Western blotting and quantification of liver tissue lysates from male and female mice. Young (12 months females; 15 months males) and aged (22 months females; 25 months males) mice were fed either a Control or Low BCAA diets from 6.5 months of age for young and 16 months of age for aged mice, then sacrificed following an overnight fast followed by 4 hours of refeeding. a, Male and b, female liver. Quantification was by ImageJ (N = 3 biologically independent animals for all groups). a, * p < 0.05 (pS6/S6, Young CTL vs. Young LBC = 0.0028, Young CTL vs. Aged CTL = 0.021; pS6K1/S6K1, Young CTL vs. Young LBC = 0.0086, Young LBC vs. Aged LBC = 0.0309; pULK1/ULK1, Aged CTL vs. Aged LBC = 0.0432, Young LBC vs. Aged LBC = 0.003). b, * p = 0.0047, # = 0.056. Statistics for the overall effects of diet, age and the interaction represent the p value from a two-way repeated measures ANOVA, multiple comparisons by two-sided Sidak’s post-test. Full scans of the cropped western blots shown here are provided as Source Data files. CTL = Control, LBC = Low BCAA. Data are represented as mean ± SEM.

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Source Data Fig. 5

Full scans of muscle western blots.

Source Data Fig. 6

Full scans of liver western blots.

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Richardson, N.E., Konon, E.N., Schuster, H.S. et al. Lifelong restriction of dietary branched-chain amino acids has sex-specific benefits for frailty and life span in mice. Nat Aging 1, 73–86 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-020-00006-2

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