Author(s): Sonneborn JS
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Abstract Hormesis is an adaptive response to low doses of otherwise harmful agents by triggering a cascade of stress-specific resistance pathways. Evidence from protozoa, nematodes, flies, rodents, and primates indicate that stress-induced tolerance modulates survival and longevity. "Reality" is that hormesis can prolong the healthy life span. Genetic background provides the potential for longevity duration induced by stress. Senesence, or aging, is generally thought to be due to a different impact of selection for alleles positive for reproduction during early life but harmful in later life, a process called antagonistic pleiotropy (multiple phenotypic changes by a single gene). After reproduction, life span is "invisible" to selection. I propose the revision that mutations selected for survival until reproduction in early life may also extend later life (protagonistic pleiotropy). The protagonist candidate genes for extended life span are hormetic response genes, which activate the protective effect in both early and later life. My revision of the earlier evolutionary theory implies that natural selection of genes critical for early survival (life span until reproduction) can also be beneficial for extended longevity in old age, tipping the evolutionary balance in favor of a latent inducible life span extension unless excess stressor challenge exceeds the protection capacity. Mimetic triggers of the stress response promise the option of tricking the induction of metabolic pathways that confer resistance to environmental challenges, increased healthy life span, rejuvenation, and disease intervention without the danger of overwhelming damage by the stressor. Public policy should anticipate an increase in healthy life span.
This article was published in Ann N Y Acad Sci
and referenced in Virology & Mycology