The effects of dietary antioxidant supplementation on oxidative stress and life span are confused. We maintained C57BL/6 mice at 7 +/- 2 degrees C and supplemented their diet with a-tocopherol from 4 months of age. Supplementation significantly increased (p = 0.042) median life span by 15% (785 days, n = 44) relative to unsupplemented controls (682 days, n = 43) and also increased maximum life span (oldest 10%, p = 0.028). No sex or sex by treatment interaction effects were observed on life span, with treatment having no effect on resting or daily metabolic rate. Lymphocyte and hepatocyte oxidative DNA damage and hepatic lipid peroxidation were unaffected by supplementation, but hepatic oxidative DNA damage increased with age. Using a cDNA macroarray, genes associated with xenobiotic metabolism were significantly upregulated in the livers of female mice at 6 months of age (2 months supplementation). At 22 months of age (18 months supplementation) this response had largely abated, but various genes linked to the p21 signaling pathway were upregulated at this time. We suggest that alpha-tocopherol may initially be metabolized as a xenobiotic, potentially explaining why previous studies observe a life span extension generally when lifelong supplementation is initiated early in life. The absence of any significant effect on oxidative damage suggests that the life span extension observed was not mediated via any antioxidant properties of alpha-tocopherol. We propose that the life span extension observed following alpha-tocopherol supplementation may be mediated via upregulation of cytochrome p450 genes after 2 months of supplementation and/or upregulation of p21 signaling genes after 18 months of supplementation. However, these signaling pathways now require further investigation to establish their exact role in life span extension following a-tocopherol supplementation.
- antioxidant enzyme-activities
- xenobiotic metabolism
- longevity assurance
- microarray data