Taurine week #7: Brain

Finishing a week’s worth of 2022 taurine research with two reviews of taurine’s brain effects:

“We provide a overview of brain taurine homeostasis, and review mechanisms by which taurine can afford neuroprotection in individuals with obesity and diabetes. Alterations to taurine homeostasis can impact a number of biological processes such as osmolarity control, calcium homeostasis, and inhibitory neurotransmission, and have been reported in both metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders.

Models of neurodegenerative disorders show reduced brain taurine concentrations. On the other hand, models of insulin-dependent diabetes, insulin resistance, and diet-induced obesity display taurine accumulation in the hippocampus. Given cytoprotective actions of taurine, such accumulation of taurine might constitute a compensatory mechanism that attempts to prevent neurodegeneration.


Taurine release is mainly mediated by volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC) that are activated by hypo-osmotic conditions and electrical activity. They can be stimulated via glutamate metabotropic (mGluR) and ionotropic receptors (mainly NMDA and AMPA), adenosine A1 receptors (A1R), and metabotropic ATP receptors (P2Y).

Taurine mediates its neuromodulatory effects by binding to GABAA, GABAB, and glycine receptors. While taurine binding to GABAA and GABAB is weaker than to GABA, taurine is a rather potent ligand of the glycine receptor. Reuptake of taurine occurs via taurine transporter TauT.

Cytoprotective actions of taurine contribute to brain health improvements in subjects with obesity and diabetes through various mechanisms that improve neuronal function, such as:

  • Modulating inhibitory neurotransmission, which promotes an excitatory–inhibitory balance;
  • Stimulating antioxidant systems; and
  • Stabilizing mitochondria energy production and Ca2+ homeostasis.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/6/1292/htm “Taurine Supplementation as a Neuroprotective Strategy upon Brain Dysfunction in Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes”

A second review focused on taurine’s secondary bile acids produced by gut microbiota:

“Most neurodegenerative disorders are diseases of protein homeostasis, with misfolded aggregates accumulating. The neurodegenerative process is mediated by numerous metabolic pathways, most of which lead to apoptosis. Hydrophilic bile acids, particularly tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), have shown important anti-apoptotic and neuroprotective activities, with numerous experimental and clinical evidence suggesting their possible therapeutic use as disease-modifiers in neurodegenerative diseases.

Biliary acids may influence each of the following three mechanisms through which interactions within the brain-gut-microbiota axis take place: neurological, immunological, and neuroendocrine. These microbial metabolites can act as direct neurotransmitters or neuromodulators, serving as key modulators of the brain-gut interactions.

The gut microbial community, through their capacity to produce bile acid metabolites distinct from the liver, can be thought of as an endocrine organ with potential to alter host physiology, perhaps to their own favour. Hydrophilic bile acids, currently regarded as important hormones, exert modulatory effects on gut microbiota composition to produce secondary bile acids which seem to bind a number of receptors with a higher affinity than primary biliary acids, expressed on many different cells.


TUDCA regulates expression of genes involved in cell cycle regulation and apoptotic pathways, promoting neuronal survival. TUDCA:

  • Improves protein folding capacity through its chaperoning activity, in turn reducing protein aggregation and deposition;
  • Reduces reactive oxygen species production, leading to protection against mitochondrial dysfunction;
  • Ameliorates endoplasmic reticulum stress; and
  • Inhibits expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, exerting an anti-neuroinflammatory effect.

Although Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and cerebral ischemia have different disease progressions, they share similar pathways which can be targeted by TUDCA. This makes this bile acid a potentially strong therapeutic option to be tested in human diseases. Clinical evidence collected so far has reported comprehensive data on ALS only.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9166453/ “Tauroursodeoxycholic acid: a potential therapeutic tool in neurodegenerative diseases”

Taurine week #6: Stress

Two 2022 rodent studies of taurine’s associations with long-term stress, starting with a chronic restraint stress model:

“We show that chronic restraint stress can lead to hyperalgesia accompanied by changes in gut microbiota that have significant gender differences. Corresponding changes of bacteria can further induce hyperalgesia and affect different serum metabolism in mice of the corresponding sex.

Different serum metabolites between pseudo-germ-free mice receiving fecal microbiota transplantation from the chronic restraint stress group and those from the control group were mainly involved in bile secretion and steroid hormone biosynthesis for male mice, and in taurine and hypotaurine metabolism and tryptophan metabolism for female mice.

Effects of gut microbiota transplantation on serum metabolomics of female host: Taurine and hypotaurine metabolism, tryptophan metabolism, serotonergic synapse, arachidonic acid metabolism, and choline metabolism in cancer were the five identified pathways in which these different metabolites were enriched.


Taurine and hypotaurine play essential roles in anti-inflammation, anti-hypertension, anti-hyperglycemia, and analgesia. Taurine can be used as a diagnostic index for fibromyalgia syndrome and neuropathic pain.

These findings improve our understanding of sexual dimorphism in gut microbiota in stress-induced hyperalgesia and the effect of gut microbiota on blood metabolic traits. Follow-up research will investigate causal relationships between them.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043661822000743 “Gut microbiota and its role in stress-induced hyperalgesia: Gender-specific responses linked to different changes in serum metabolites”

Human equivalents:

  • A 7-8 month-old mouse would be a 38-42 year-old human.
  • A 14-day stress period is about two years for humans.

A second study used a chronic social defeat stress model:

“The level of taurine in extracellular fluid of the cerebral medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was significantly reduced in mice with chronic social defeat stress (CSDS)-induced depression. We found that taurine supplementation effectively rescued immobility time during a tail suspension assay and improved social avoidance behaviors in CSDS mice.

Male C57BL/6 J mice (∼ 23 g) and male CD-1 mice aged 7–8 months (∼ 45 g) were used. CD-1 mice were screened for aggressive behavior during social interactions for three consecutive days before the start of the social defeat sessions. Experimental C57BL/6 J mice were subjected to physical interactions with a novel CD-1 mouse for 10 min once per day over 10 consecutive days.

We found significant reductions in taurine and betaine levels in mPFC interstitial fluid of CSDS mice compared with control mice.

csds taurine betaine

We additionally investigated levels of interstitial taurine in chronic restraint stress (CRS) mice, another depressive animal model. After 14 days of CRS treatment, mice showed typical depression-like behaviors, including decreased sucrose preference and increased immobility time. mPFC levels of interstitial taurine were also significantly decreased in CRS mice.

Taurine treatment protected CSDS mice from impairments in dendritic complexity, spine density, and proportions of different types of spines. Expression of N-methyl D-aspartate receptor subunit 2A, an important synaptic receptor, was largely restored in the mPFC of these mice after taurine supplementation.

These results demonstrated that taurine exerted an antidepressive effect by protecting cortical neurons from dendritic spine loss and synaptic protein deficits.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10571-022-01218-3 “Taurine Alleviates Chronic Social Defeat Stress-Induced Depression by Protecting Cortical Neurons from Dendritic Spine Loss”

Human equivalents:

  • A 7-8 month-old mouse would be a 38-42 year-old human.
  • A 500 mg/kg taurine dose injected intraperitoneally is (.081 x 500 mg) x 70KG = 2.835 g.
  • A 10-day stress period is about a year and a half for humans.

Don’t think aggressive humans would have to be twice as large to stress those around them. There may be choices other than enduring a year and a half of that.

Taurine week #2: Bile acids

Two papers investigated taurine’s integration into bile acids, starting with a review:

“Bile acids (BAs) are produced from cholesterol in the liver and are termed primary BAs. Primary BAs are conjugated with glycine and taurine in the liver, and stored in the gallbladder. BAs are released from the gallbladder into the small intestine via food intake to facilitate digestion and absorption of lipids and lipophilic vitamins by forming micelles in the small intestine.

After deconjugation by the gut microbiome, primary BAs are converted into secondary BAs. Most BAs in the intestine are reabsorbed and transported to the liver, where both primary and secondary BAs are conjugated with glycine or taurine and rereleased into the intestine.


Some BAs reabsorbed from the intestine spill into systemic circulation, where they bind to a variety of nuclear and cell-surface receptors in tissues. Some BAs are not reabsorbed and bind to receptors in the terminal ileum.

BAs can affect cell-surface and intracellular membranes, including those of mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum. BAs are also hormones or signaling molecules, and can regulate BA, glucose, and lipid metabolism in various tissues, including the liver, pancreas, and both brown and white adipose tissue. BAs also affect the immune system.

BAs can affect the nervous system. More than 20 BAs have been detected in the brain of humans and rodents. The brain communicates with the gut and gut microbiome through BAs.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/10/1/68/htm “Physiological Role of Bile Acids Modified by the Gut Microbiome”

Reference 56 was a human study:

“Centenarians (individuals aged 100 years and older) have a decreased susceptibility to ageing-associated illnesses, chronic inflammation, and infectious diseases. Centenarians have a distinct gut microbiome enriched in microorganisms that are capable of generating unique secondary bile acids.

We identified centenarian-specific gut microbiota signatures and defined bacterial species as well as genes and/or pathways that promote generation of isoLCA, 3-oxoLCA, 3-oxoalloLCA, and isoalloLCA. To our knowledge, isoalloLCA is one of the most potent antimicrobial agents that is selective against Gram-positive microorganisms, including multidrug-resistant pathogens, suggesting that it may contribute to maintenance of intestinal homeostasis by enhancing colonization-resistance mechanisms.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03832-5 “Novel bile acid biosynthetic pathways are enriched in the microbiome of centenarians” (not freely available)

A few more papers will be coming on taurine and bile acids. I haven’t seen one investigate both taurine and glycine treatments to aid bile acid in achieving therapeutic results.


The oligosaccharide stachyose

Two 2022 stachyose papers to follow on to Don’t take Beano if you’re stressed, which studied raffinose. Stachyose is in the raffinose oligosaccharide group with similar characteristics, and its content is usually larger in legumes. First is a rodent study:

“Stress can activate the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and elevate glucocorticoids in the body (cortisol in humans and corticosterone in rodents). Glucocorticoid receptors are abundant in the hippocampus, and play an important role in stress-induced cognition alteration.

Corticosterone is often used to model cognitive impairment induced by stress. Long-term potentiation (LTP) deficit and cognitive impairment always coexist in stress models, and LTP impairment is often considered as one mechanism for stress-induced cognitive deficits.

N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors play critical roles both in normal synaptic functions and excitotoxicity in the central nervous system. D-serine, a coactivator of NMDA receptors, plays an important role in brain function.

In this study, we focused on effects of stachyose, on LTP impairment by corticosterone, gut flora, and the D-serine pathway.


Data in this study showed that 7-consecutive-day intragastric (i.g.) administration of stachyose had protective effect. There was little effect via intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) and intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration.

To disturb gut flora, a combination of non-absorbable antibiotics (ATB) were applied. Results showed that ATB canceled the protective effect of stachyose without affecting LTP in control and corticosterone-treated mice, suggesting that stachyose may display its protective effects against LTP impairment by corticosterone via gut flora.

Further study is needed to uncover the relation between gut flora and the D-serine metabolic pathway.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2022.799244/full “Stachyose Alleviates Corticosterone-Induced Long-Term Potentiation Impairment via the Gut–Brain Axis”

One of this study’s references was Eat oats and regain cognitive normalcy.

A stachyose clinical trial is expected to complete this month:

“In the stachyose intervention group, each person took 5 g of stachyose daily before breakfast. Administration method was 100 ml of drinking water dissolved and taken orally for two months. Each person in the placebo control group took the same amount of maltodextrin daily. Stool samples of the 36 subjects were collected weekly.

Primary outcome measures:

  1. Expression of microRNA; and
  2. Structure of gut microbiota.”

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05392348 “Regulatory Effect of Stachyose on Gut Microbiota and microRNA Expression in Human”


Young gut, young eyes

I’ll highlight this 2022 rodent study findings of effects on eye health:

“We tested the hypothesis that manipulating intestinal microbiota influences development of major comorbidities associated with aging and, in particular, inflammation affecting the brain and retina. Using fecal microbiota transplantation, we exchanged intestinal microbiota of young (3 months), old (18 months), and aged (24 months) mice.

Transfer of aged donor microbiota into young mice accelerates age-associated central nervous system inflammation, retinal inflammation, and cytokine signaling. It promotes loss of key functional protein in the eye, effects which are coincident with increased intestinal barrier permeability.

These detrimental effects can be reversed by transfer of young donor microbiota.

young and aged fmt

We provide the first direct evidence that aged intestinal microbiota drives retinal inflammation, and regulates expression of the functional visual protein RPE65. RPE65 is vital for maintaining normal photoceptor function via trans-retinol conversion. Mutations or loss of function are associated with retinitis pigmentosa, and are implicated in age-related macular degeneration.

Our finding that age-associated decline in host retinal RPE65 expression is induced by an aged donor microbiota, and conversely is rescued by young donor microbiota transfer, suggests age-associated gut microbiota functions or products regulate visual function.”

https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-022-01243-w “Fecal microbiota transfer between young and aged mice reverses hallmarks of the aging gut, eye, and brain”


Exercise substitutes?

Two papers, starting with a 2022 abstract of an ongoing in vitro study with rodent cells:

“Exercise mimetics may target and activate the same mechanisms that are upregulated with exercise administration alone. This is particularly useful under conditions where contractile activity is compromised due to muscle disuse, disease, or aging.

Sulforaphane and Urolithin A represent our preliminary candidates for antioxidation and mitophagy, respectively, for maintaining mitochondrial turnover and homeostasis. Preliminary results suggest that these agents may be suitable candidates as exercise mimetics, and set the stage for an examination of synergistic effects.”

https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1096/fasebj.2022.36.S1.R3745 “Exercise mimicry: Characterization of nutraceutical agents that may contribute to mitochondrial homeostasis in skeletal muscle” (study not available)

A second 2022 paper reviewed what’s known todate regarding urolithins:

“Urolithins (Uros) are metabolites produced by gut microbiota from the polyphenols ellagitannins (ETs) and ellagic acid (EA). ETs are one of the main groups of hydrolyzable tannins. They can occur in different plant foods, including pomegranates, berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.), walnuts, many tropical fruits, medicinal plants, and herbal teas, including green and black teas.

Bioavailability of ETs and EA is very low. Absorption of these metabolites could be increased by co-ingestion with dietary fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Effects of other experimental factors: post-intake time, duration of administration, diet type (standard and high-fat), and ET dosage (without, low, and high ET intake) in ETs metabolism were evaluated in blood serum and urine of rats consuming strawberry phenolics. Highest concentrations were obtained after 2–4 days of administration.

Various crucial issues need further research despite significant evolution of urolithin research. Overall, whether in vivo biological activity endorsed to Uros is due to each specific metabolite and(or) physiological circulating mixture of metabolites and(or) gut microbial ecology associated with their production is still poorly understood.

  • Ability of Uros to cross the blood-brain barrier and the nature of metabolites and concentrations reached in brain tissues need to be clarified.
  • Specific in vivo activity for each free and conjugated Uro metabolite is unknown. Studies on different Uro metabolites and their phase-II conjugates are needed to understand their role in human health.
  • Evidence on safety and impact of Uros on human health is still scarce and only partially available for Uro-A.
  • It is unknown whether there are potential common links between gut microbial ecologies of the two unambiguously described metabotypes so far, i.e., equol (isoflavones) and Uros (ellagitannins).
  • Gut microbes responsible for producing different Uros still need to be better identified and characterized, and biochemical pathways and enzymes involved.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.202101019 “Urolithins: a Comprehensive Update on their Metabolism, Bioactivity, and Associated Gut Microbiota”


Coffee improves information’s signal-to-noise ratio

This 2022 rodent study investigated caffeine’s effects:

“A majority of molecular and neurophysiological studies explored the impact of acute rather than repeated exposure to caffeine. We show that, in bulk tissue analysis, chronic caffeine treatment reduced metabolic processes related to lipids, mitochondria, and translation in mouse hippocampus. In sharp contrast to what was observed in bulk tissue, we found that caffeine induced a neuronal autonomous epigenomic response related to synaptic plasticity activation.


Regular caffeine intake exerts a long-term effect on neuronal activity/plasticity in the adult brain, lowering metabolic-related processes, and simultaneously finely tuning activity-dependent regulations. In non-neuronal cells, caffeine decreases activities under basal conditions, and improves signal-to-noise ratio during information encoding in brain circuits, contributing to bolster salience of information.

Overall, our data prompt the novel concept that regular caffeine intake promotes a more efficient ability of the brain to encode experience-related events. By coordinating epigenomic changes in neuronal and non-neuronal cells, regular caffeine intake promotes a fine-tuning of metabolism in resting conditions.”

https://www.jci.org/articles/view/149371 “Caffeine intake exerts dual genome-wide effects on hippocampal metabolism and learning-dependent transcription”


Young immune system, young brain

This 2022 study investigated brain aging:

“We aimed to explore key genes underlying cognitively normal brain aging and its potential molecular mechanisms. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain aging are complex and mainly include:

  1. Dysfunction of mitochondria;
  2. Accumulation of oxidatively damaged proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids in brain cells;
  3. Disorders of energy metabolism;
  4. Impaired ‘waste disposal’ mechanism (autophagosome and proteasome functionality);
  5. Impaired signal transduction of adaptive stress response;
  6. Impaired DNA repair;
  7. Abnormal neural network activity;
  8. Imbalance of neuronal Ca2+ processing;
  9. Stem cell exhaustion; and
  10. Increased inflammation.

mrna brain expression

Expression of CD44, CD93, and CD163 mRNA detected by qPCR in hippocampal tissue of cognitively normal aged and young mice.

Underlying molecular mechanisms for maintaining healthy brain aging are related to decline of immune-inflammatory responses. CD44, CD93, and CD 163 are potential biomarkers.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2022.833402/full “Identification of Key Biomarkers and Pathways for Maintaining Cognitively Normal Brain Aging Based on Integrated Bioinformatics Analysis”


Are blood epigenetic clock measurements optimal?

This 2022 human study investigated tissue-specific epigenetic clock measurements:

“We used DNA methylation data representing 11 human tissues (adipose, blood, bone marrow, heart, kidney, liver, lung, lymph node, muscle, spleen, and pituitary gland) to quantify the extent to which epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) in one tissue correlates with EAA in another tissue.

Epigenetic age was moderately correlated across tissues:

  • Blood had the greatest number and degree of correlation, most notably with spleen and bone marrow. Blood did not correlate with epigenetic age of liver.
  • EAA in liver was weakly correlated with EAA in kidney, adipose, lung, and bone marrow.
  • Hypertension was associated with EAA in several tissues, consistent with multiorgan impacts of this illness.
  • HIV infection was associated with positive age acceleration in kidney and spleen.
  • Men were found to exhibit higher EAA than women across all tissues when analyzed together. Significant results were also observed in individual tissues (muscle, spleen, and lymph nodes).

men age faster

Blood alone will often fail to detect EAA in other tissues. It will be advisable to profile several sources of DNA (including blood, buccal cells, adipose, and skin) to get a comprehensive picture of the epigenetic aging state of an individual.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11357-022-00560-0 “HIV, pathology and epigenetic age acceleration in different human tissues”


Gut microbiota knowledge through 2021

I’ll curate this 2022 review of what’s known and unknown about our trillions of gut microbiota through its topic headings:

“Most microbial taxa and species of the human microbiome are still unknown. Without revealing the identity of these microbes as a first step, we cannot appreciate their role in human health and diseases.

A. Understanding the Microbiome Composition and Factors That Shape Its Diversity
Effect of Diet Composition on the Microbiome Diversity

  • Macronutrients and Microbiome Diversity
  • Nutrient and Mineral Supplements and Microbiome Diversity



Race and Host Genetics



  • Exercise
  • Smoking
  • Urbanization

B. Understanding the Microbiome Function and Its Association With Onset and Progression of Many Diseases

Microbiome Association With Inflammatory and Metabolic Disorders

  • Chronic Inflammation in GIT and Beyond
  • Development of Malignant Tumors
  • Obesity
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Respiratory Diseases

Microbiome Role in Psychiatric, Behavioral, and Emotional Disorders

C. Understanding the Microbiome Function as Mediated by Secreted Molecules

D. Conclusion and Future Directions – A pioneering study aimed to computationally predict functions of microbes on earth estimates the presence of 35.5 million functions in bacteria of which only 0.02% are known. Our knowledge of its functions and how they mediate health and diseases is preliminary.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2022.825338 “Recent Advances in Understanding the Structure and Function of the Human Microbiome”

I took another test last month at the 14-month point of treating my gut microbiota better. Compared with the 7-month top level measurements, what stood out was an increase in relative abundance from 1% to 7% in the Verrucomicrophia phylum that pretty much exclusively comprises species Akkermansia muciniphilia in humans:

top 5 phylum 2-2022

This review termed Akkermansia muciniphilia relative increases as beneficial. Go with the Alzheimer’s Disease evidence didn’t.

Preventing human infections with dietary fibers inferred that insufficient dietary fiber may disproportionately increase abundance of this species. But I already eat much more fiber than our human ancestors’ estimated 100 grams of fiber every day, so lack of fiber definitely didn’t cause this relative increase.

Resistant starch therapy observed:

“Relative abundances of smaller keystone communities (e.g. primary degraders) may increase, but appear to decrease simply because cross-feeders increase in relative abundance to a greater extent.”

I’ll wait for further evidence while taking responsibility for my own one precious life.

Didn’t agree with this review’s statements regarding microbial associations with fear. These reviewers framed such associations as if gut microbiota in the present had stronger influences on an individual’s fear responses than did any of the individual’s earlier experiences. No way.

I came across this review by it citing The microbiome: An emerging key player in aging and longevity, which was Reference 25 of Dr. Paul Clayton’s blog post What are You Thinking?

Also didn’t agree with some of the doctor’s post:

  • Heterochronic parabiosis of young and old animals is wildly different from fecal transfer. Can’t really compare them to any level of detail.
  • Using a rodent young-to-old fecal microbiota transplant study to imply the same effects would happen in humans? Humans don’t live in controlled environments, so why would a young human individual’s gut microbiota necessarily have healthier effects than an old individual’s?
  • Another example was the penultimate paragraph: “By adding a mix of prebiotic fibers to your diet and maintaining a more youthful and less inflammatory microbiome you will have less inflammation, less endotoxaemia and less inflammageing. You will therefore live healthier and longer.” I’m okay with the first sentence. Equivalating the first sentence to both healthspan and lifespan increases in the second sentence wasn’t supported by any of the 45 cited references.

Advanced glycation / lipoxidation end products

Three papers on what can be expected from AGEs, beginning with a 2022 review:

“Carbonyl stress is a condition characterized by an increase in the steady-state levels of reactive carbonyl species (RCS) that leads to accumulation of their irreversible covalent adducts with biological molecules. In addition to causing damage directly, the RCS adducts advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and advanced lipoxidation end-products (ALEs) elicit chronic inflammation through receptor-mediated mechanisms.

Endogenously formed RCS and AGEs/ALEs accumulation induced by hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and oxidative stress have been long recognized as critical factors in pathogenesis of cardiovascular, renal, and eye complications. The role of dietary glyco/lipotoxins in vascular complications is debated, as the metabolic fate of most ingested AGEs/ALEs and RCS remains unknown, and their contribution to systemic carbonyl stress is uncertain.

rcs ages ales

Plasma glucose spikes after a meal rich in readily absorbable carbohydrates, particularly in association with an unfavorable lipid composition, may promote proinflammatory and pro-oxidant responses by inducing a transient increase in RCS levels and consequent AGE formation. As protein-bound AGEs are not easily eliminated from the body, they can eventually accumulate in vascular and metabolic tissues because of repeated cycles of nutrient-induced carbonyl stress, favoring establishment of systemic low chronic inflammation.

Post-challenge glucose excursions are associated with a transient increase in circulating RCS levels, particularly in diabetic and prediabetic individuals. Diet-induced weight loss is associated with decreases in postprandial carbonyl stress in obese subjects. Data on lean and metabolically healthy individuals are limited.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/5/1061/htm “Food-Related Carbonyl Stress in Cardiometabolic and Cancer Risk Linked to Unhealthy Modern Diet”

I understand that researchers feel obligated to end papers with suggestions for future research. It’s a little irritating, though, when these are pie-in-the-sky.

People who wait for endogenous vs. exogenous AGE / ALE questions to be answered in their lifetimes are at risk for giving themselves diseases.

A second paper is a 2021 human cell study:

“Sulforaphane (SFN) found in cruciferous vegetables is a potent activator of the Nrf2 transcription factor, the master regulator of redox biology in mammalian cells. Nrf2 modulates expression of several antioxidant enzymes, such as γ-glutamylcysteine ligase (γ-GCL). This is the rate-limiting step in synthesis of the major non-enzymatic antioxidant glutathione (GSH). Silencing of Nrf2 or inhibition of GSH synthesis abolished SFN-promoted mitochondrial protection in cells exposed to methylglyoxal (MG), a pro-oxidant agent whose levels are high in several human diseases.

sfn vs mg

MG is a reactive dicarbonyl presenting both endogenous (e.g. glycolysis) and exogenous (e.g. food cooking) sources. MG induces neurotoxicity, at least in part, by affecting mitochondrial function, including a decline in oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system activity, bioenergetics failure, and redox disturbances.

We found that SFN prevented MG-induced OXPHOS dysfunction and mitochondrial redox impairment. SFN protected mitochondria of MG-challenged cells by a mechanism involving the Nrf2/γ-GCL/GSH axis.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11064-020-03204-x “The Isothiocyanate Sulforaphane Depends on the Nrf2/γ‑GCL/GSH Axis to Prevent Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Cells Exposed to Methylglyoxal” (not freely available)

Although this study’s 5 µM sulforaphane treatment is achievable in human plasma, that level isn’t sustainable for 24 hours as the study did in vitro. Would sulforaphane’s in vivo effects likewise prevent methylglyoxal from inducing AGEs?

A third paper is a 2022 human study:

“AGEs have been widely reported to play an important role in osteoporosis (OP). We investigated the effect of AGEs on osteoblast function and underlying mechanisms.

op lumbar vertebrae

Levels of bone mineral density (BMD), serum AGEs, and fasting blood glucose (FBG) were measured in patients with OP and healthy individuals:

  • Patients with OP had a higher level of serum AGEs and FBG compared with healthy individuals.
  • The level of serum AGEs in patients with OP was negatively correlated with BMD, but was positively correlated with FBG.
  • AGEs and serum from patients with OP markedly inhibited hFOB1.19 osteoblast cell proliferation, alkaline phosphatase production, and mineralized nodule formation.
  • Apoptosis and ferroptosis were significantly promoted by AGEs and serum from patients with OP.
  • Serum from OP patients with T2DM caused stronger effect than that from OP patients with normal FBG.

Collectively, AGEs could disrupt functions of osteoblasts by inducing cell ferroptosis, thus contributing to OP.”

https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mmr.2022.12656 “Advanced glycation end products promote osteoporosis by inducing ferroptosis in osteoblasts”

Signaling pathways and disordered proteins

This 2022 review explored the title subject:

“Cell signaling imposes many demands on proteins that comprise these pathways, including abilities to form active and inactive states, and to engage in multiple protein interactions. Signaling often requires amplifying signals, regulating or tuning responses to signals, combining information sourced from multiple pathways, all while ensuring process fidelity.

Sensitivity, adaptability, and tunability are possible, in part, due to inclusion of intrinsically disordered regions in many proteins involved in cell signaling.  This review highlights the critical role of intrinsically disordered proteins for signaling:

  • In widely diverse organisms (animals, plants, bacteria, fungi);
  • In every category of cell signaling pathway (autocrine, juxtacrine, intracrine, paracrine, and endocrine); and
  • At each stage (ligand, receptor, transducer, effector, terminator) in the cell signaling process.

Function of the glucocorticoid receptor is regulated in part by its intrinsically disordered C-terminal tail. Prior to activation, the glucocorticoid receptor resides in cytosol:

glucocorticoid receptor

Intrinsic disorder in the glucocorticoid receptor not only enables multiple allosteric regulatory interactions to impact function, but also allows deployment of different surfaces of the protein to enable binding to many different sets of macromolecules, and regulation of these interactions via mRNA splicing and phosphorylation.

Combinations of alternative translation initiation and alternative mRNA splicing result in production of multiple glucocorticoid receptor isoforms from one gene. Various isoforms exhibit distinctive tissue distribution patterns and altered transcriptional regulatory profiles.

Greater than 90% of transcription factors either contain intrinsically disordered regions of proteins or are entirely intrinsically disordered. The many advantages conferred by disorder to cell signaling cascades means that:

  1. Understanding signaling required definition of roles disorder plays in each pathway;
  2. Many more examples of disordered proteins in cell signaling pathways are likely to be discovered; and
  3. More mechanisms by which disorder functions remain to be elucidated.”

https://biosignaling.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12964-022-00821-7 “Intrinsically disordered proteins play diverse roles in cell signaling”

Cells in vivo seldom act on their own impetus. I would have liked discussion – or at least mention – of bidirectional signals between genes / cells / tissues / organs / organism / environment. This review’s topic of cell signaling pathways excluded “interactions of complex, interconnected systems spanning hierarchical levels” as explored in An environmental signaling paradigm of aging.

Vitamin K forms

Two papers on Vitamin K, beginning with a 2021 review:

“Vitamin K is involved in many biological processes. Menaquinones (MK) [Vitamin K2] and phylloquinone [Vitamin K1] vary in biological activity, showing different bioavailability, half-life, and transport mechanisms.

The effective dose to decrease uncarboxylated osteocalcin was six times lower for MK-7 than for MK-4. Similarly, MK-7 affected blood coagulation system at dose three to four times lower than vitamin K1.

Both vitamin K1 and MK-7 inhibited decline in bone mineral density. However, benefits for occurrence of cardiovascular diseases have been observed only for long-chain menaquinones. There are currently no guidelines for recommended doses and forms of vitamin K in prevention of osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and other cardiovascular disorders.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/10/12/3136/htm “Relationship between Structure and Biological Activity of Various Vitamin K Forms”

This first paper cited a 2019 meta-analysis for:

“Vitamin K2 supplementation is a preventative measure rather than an osteoporosis treatment.

Meta-analysis of various interventions for improving BMD revealed that vitamin K2 can increase lumbar spine BMD. It ranked sixth among eighteen different single or combined interventions including Ca, vitamin D, estrogen, isoflavone and exercise.”

“Effect size for change in bone mineral density (BMD) using forest plots. LS, lumbar spine; D, vitamin D; Est, oestrogen; Ex, exercise; K, vitamin K; Iso, isoflavone; FN, femoral neck.

urn cambridge.org id binary-alt 20211204100437-73338-optimisedImage-S0007114519002290_fig3g

Lumbar spine:

  • Ca, vitamin D, vitamin K, oestrogen, exercise, Ca + vitamin D, vitamin D + vitamin K, and vitamin D + oestrogen were associated with significantly beneficial effects relative to no treatment.
  • Ca, vitamin D, oestrogen, and Ca + vitamin D were associated with beneficial effects compared with placebo.
  • Vitamin D + vitamin K was associated with positive effect with Ca.
  • Oestrogen, vitamin D + vitamin K, and vitamin D + oestrogen were associated with beneficial effect compared with vitamin D.
  • Ca + vitamin D + exercise had a beneficial effect compared with Ca + vitamin D.
  • Ca + oestrogen, and isoflavone + exercise were related to negative effects relative to oestrogen.

Femoral neck:

  • Ca, exercise, and vitamin D + oestrogen were associated with significant beneficial intervention effects relative to no treatment.

The present study demonstrated that many interventions were valuable for improving BMD in the LS and FN of postmenopausal women. It confirmed the need for postmenopausal women to improve BMD through preventive measures such as nutrients or oestrogen.

It also confirmed that different single or combined preventions can affect BMD at different sites in different orders. This reveals to medical and health workers and postmenopausal women which methods can be selected preferentially to prevent bone loss.”

https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114519002290 “Impact of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, oestrogen, isoflavone and exercise on bone mineral density for osteoporosis prevention in postmenopausal women: a network meta-analysis”

Amazingly oblivious that this freely-available second 2019 paper has been cited only by this first paper. What recent literature is more relevant to postmenopausal women’s health?

Eat broccoli sprouts for depression, Part 2

Here are three papers that cited last year’s Part 1. First is a 2021 rodent study investigating a microRNA’s pro-depressive effects:

“Depressive rat models were established via chronic unpredicted mild stress (CUMS) treatment. Cognitive function of rats was assessed by a series of behavioral tests.


Nrf2 was weakly expressed in CUMS-treated rats, whereas Nrf2 upregulation alleviated cognitive dysfunction and brain inflammatory injury.

Nrf2 inhibited miR-17-5p expression via binding to the miR-17-5p promoter. miR-17-5p was also found to limit wolfram syndrome 1 (Wfs1) transcription.

We found that Nrf2 inhibited miR-17-5p expression and promoted Wfs1 transcription, thereby alleviating cognitive dysfunction and inflammatory injury in rats with depression-like behaviors. We didn’t investigate the role of Nrf2 in other depression models (chronic social stress model and chronic restraint stress model) and important brain regions other than hippocampus, such as prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. Accordingly, other depression models and brain regions need to be designed and explored to further validate the role of Nrf2 in depression in future studies.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10753-021-01554-4 “Nrf2 Alleviates Cognitive Dysfunction and Brain Inflammatory Injury via Mediating Wfs1 in Rats with Depression‑Like Behaviors” (not freely available)

This study demonstrated that activating the Nrf2 pathway inhibited brain inflammation, cognitive dysfunction, and depression. Would modulating one microRNA and one gene in vivo without Nrf2 activation achieve similar results?

A 2021 review focused on the immune system’s role in depression:

“Major depressive disorder is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses. The mean age of patients with this disorder is 30.4 years, and the prevalence is twice higher in women than in men.

Activation of inflammatory pathways in the brain is considered to be an important producer of excitotoxicity and oxidative stress inducer that contributes to neuronal damage seen in the disorder. This activation is mainly due to pro-inflammatory cytokines activating the tryptophan-kynurenine (KP) pathway in microglial cells and astrocytes.

Elevated levels of cortisol exert an inhibitory feedback mechanism on its receptors in the hippocampus and hypothalamus, stopping stimulation of these structures to restore balance. When this balance is disrupted, hypercortisolemia directly stimulates extrahepatic enzyme 2,3-indolimine dioxygenase (IDO) located in various tissues (intestine, placenta, liver, and brain) and immune system macrophages and dendritic cells.

Elevation of IDO activities causes metabolism of 99% of available tryptophan in the KP pathway, substantially reducing serotonin synthesis, and producing reactive oxygen species and nitrogen radicals. The excitotoxicity generated produces tissue lesions, and activates the inflammatory response.”

https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/25/1/46/6415265 “Inflammatory Process and Immune System in Major Depressive Disorder”

This review highlighted that stress via cortisol and IDO may affect the brain and other parts of the body.

A 2022 review elaborated on Part 1’s findings of MeCP2 as a BDNF inhibitor:

“Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is a transcriptional regulator that is highly abundant in the brain. It binds to methylated genomic DNA to regulate a range of physiological functions implicated in neuronal development and adult synaptic plasticity.

Ability to cope with stressors relies upon activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. MeCP2 has been shown to contribute to early life stress-dependent epigenetic programming of genes that enhance HPA-axis activity.

We describe known functions of MeCP2 as an epigenetic regulator, and provide evidence for its role in modulating synaptic plasticity via transcriptional regulation of BDNF or other proteins involved in synaptogenesis and synaptic strength like reelin. We conclude that MeCP2 is a promising target for development of novel, more efficacious therapeutics for treatment of stress-related disorders such as depression.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4409/11/4/748/htm “The Role of MeCP2 in Regulating Synaptic Plasticity in the Context of Stress and Depression”

Osprey lunch


CD38 and balance

I’ll highlight this 2022 review’s relationships between inflammation and cluster of differentiation 38:

“We review the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) catabolizing enzyme CD38, which plays critical roles in pathogenesis of diseases related to infection, inflammation, fibrosis, metabolism, and aging.

NAD is a cofactor of paramount importance for an array of cellular processes related to mitochondrial function and metabolism, redox reactions, signaling, cell division, inflammation, and DNA repair. Dysregulation of NAD is associated with multiple diseases. Since CD38 is the main NADase in mammalian tissues, its contribution to pathological processes has been explored in multiple disease models.

CD38 is upregulated in a cell-dependent manner by several stimuli in the presence of pro-inflammatory or secreted senescence factors or in response to a bacterial infection, retinoic acid, or gonadal steroids. CD38 is stimulated in a cell-specific manner by lipopolysaccharide, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, and interferon-γ.

dysregulated inflammation

CD38 plays a critical role in inflammation, migration, and immunometabolism, but equally important is resolution of the inflammatory response which left unchecked leads to loss of self-tolerance, tissue infiltration of lymphocytes, and circulation of autoantibodies.

  • Depending upon context, CD38 can either promote or protect against an autoimmune response.
  • Chronic mucosal inflammation and tissue damage characteristic of inflammatory bowel disease predisposes IBD patients to development of colorectal cancer, and the risks increase with duration, extent, and severity of inflammation.
  • Pulmonary fibrosis occurs in the presence of unresolved inflammation and dysregulated tissue repair, and results from an array of injurious stimuli including infection, toxicant exposure, adverse effects of drugs, and autoimmune response.
  • Modulating CD38 and NAD levels in kidney disease may provide therapeutic approaches for prevention of inflammatory conditions of the kidney.
  • Inflammation as well as evidence of senescence are present in pathophysiology of chronic liver diseases that progress to cirrhosis.
  • Inflammation-associated metabolic diseases impair vascular function. Chronic inflammation can lead to vascular senescence and dysfunction.

One cause of NAD decline during aging is due to increase of NAD breakdown in the presence of increased CD38 expression and activity on immune cells, thus linking inflammaging with tissue NAD decline. Other sources of NAD decline include increased DNA-damage requiring PARP1 activation, and decreased NAMPT levels leading to diminished NAD synthesis through the salvage pathway.

Inflammation is among the major risk factors that predispose organisms to age-associated diseases. During aging, accumulation of senescent cells creates an environment rich in proinflammatory signals, leading to ‘inflammaging.’ Metabolically active cells lose their replicative capacity by entering an irreversible quiescent state, and are considered both a cause and a consequence of inflammaging.

Recent findings uncover a major role of CD38 in inflammation and senescence, showing that age-related NAD+ decline and the sterile inflammation of aging are partially mediated by a senescence / senescence associated secretory phenotype (SASP)-induced accumulation of CD38+ inflammatory cells in tissues. Given the clear association between the phenomenon of inflammaging, senescence, and CD38, as well as the impact of CD38 on degradation of NAD and the NAD precursor NMN, future studies should focus on CD38 as a druggable target in viral illnesses.”

https://journals.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/ajpcell.00451.2021 “The CD38 glycohydrolase and the NAD sink: implications for pathological conditions” (not freely available). Thanks to Dr. Julianna Zeidler for providing a copy.

We extend good-vs.-bad thinking to nature. Does that paradigm explain much, though?

All pieces of a puzzle are important. Otherwise, evolution would have eliminated what wasn’t necessary for its purposes.

Restoring balance to an earlier phenotype suits my purposes. Don’t want to eliminate inflammatory responses, but instead, calm them down so that they’re evoked appropriately.