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Life-history Constraints on the Mechanisms that Control the Rate of ROS Production

[ Vol. 15 , Issue. 3 ]


Juan Carlos Aledo   Pages 217 - 230 ( 14 )


The quest to understand why and how we age has led to numerous lines of investigation that have gradually converged to consider mitochondrial metabolism as a major player. During mitochondrial respiration a small and variable amount of the consumed oxygen is converted to reactive species of oxygen (ROS). For many years, these ROS have been perceived as harmful by-products of respiration. However, evidence from recent years indicates that ROS fulfill important roles as cellular messengers. Results obtained using model organisms suggest that ROS-dependent signalling may even activate beneficial cellular stress responses, which eventually may lead to increased lifespan. Nevertheless, when an overload of ROS cannot be properly disposed of, its accumulation generates oxidative stress, which plays a major part in the ageing process. Comparative studies about the rates of ROS production and oxidative damage accumulation, have led to the idea that the lower rate of mitochondrial oxygen radical generation of long-lived animals with respect to that of their short-lived counterpart, could be a primary cause of their slow ageing rate. A hitherto largely under-appreciated alternative view is that such lower rate of ROS production, rather than a cause may be a consequence of the metabolic constraints imposed for the large body sizes that accompany high lifespans. To help understanding the logical underpinning of this rather heterodox view, herein I review the current literature regarding the mechanisms of ROS formation, with particular emphasis on evolutionary aspects.


Ageing, Lifespan, Mitochondria, OXPHOS, Oxygen, ROS.


Departamento de Biologia Molecular y Bioquimica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Malaga, 29071-Malaga, Spain.

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