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.

nutrients-14-01292-g003

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.

40035_2022_307_Fig1_HTML

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.

1-s2.0-S1043661822000743-gr11_lrg

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.

The misnomer of nonessential amino acids

Three papers, starting with a 2022 review:

“Ideal diets must provide all physiologically and nutritionally essential amino acids (AAs).

Proposed optimal ratios and amounts of true digestible AAs in diets during different phases of growth and production. Because dynamic requirements of animals for dietary AAs are influenced by a plethora of factors, data below as well as the literature serve only as references to guide feeding practices and nutritional research.

10.1177_15353702221082658-table5

Nutritionists should move beyond the ‘ideal protein’ concept to consider optimum ratios and amounts of all proteinogenic AAs in diets for mammals, birds, and aquatic animals, and, in the case of carnivores, also taurine. This will help formulate effectively low-protein diets for livestock (including swine and high-producing dairy cattle), poultry, fish, and crustaceans, as well as zoo and companion animals.”

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/15353702221082658 “The ‘ideal protein’ concept is not ideal in animal nutrition”


A second 2022 review focused on serine:

“The main dietary source of L-serine is protein, in which L-serine content ranges between 2 and 5%. At the daily intake of ~1 g protein per kg of body weight, the amount of serine obtained from food ranges between 1.4 and 3.5 g (13.2–33.0 mmol) per day in an adult.

Mechanisms of potential benefits of supplementing L-serine include increased synthesis of sphingolipids, decreased synthesis of 1-deoxysphingolipids, decrease in homocysteine levels, and increased synthesis of cysteine and its metabolites, including glutathione. L-serine supplementation has been suggested as a rational therapeutic approach in several disorders, particularly primary disorders of L-serine synthesis, neurodegenerative disorders, and diabetic neuropathy.

Unfortunately, the number of clinical studies evaluating dietary supplementation of L-serine as a possible therapy is small. Studies examining therapeutic effects of L-serine in CNS injury and chronic renal diseases, in which it is supposed that L-serine weakens glutamate neurotoxicity and lowers homocysteine levels, respectively, are missing.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/9/1987/htm “Serine Metabolism in Health and Disease and as a Conditionally Essential Amino Acid”


A 2021 review subject was D-serine, L-serine’s D-isoform:

“The N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor (NMDAR) and its co-agonist D-serine are currently of great interest as potential important contributors to cognitive function in normal aging and dementia. D-serine is necessary for activation of NMDAR and in maintenance of long-term potentiation, and is involved in brain development, neuronal connectivity, synaptic plasticity, and regulation of learning and memory.

The source of D-amino acids in mammals was historically attributed to diet or intestinal bacteria until racemization of L-serine by serine racemase was identified as the endogenous source of D-serine. The enzyme responsible for catabolism (breakdown) of D-serine is D-amino acid oxidase; this enzyme is most abundant in cerebellum and brainstem, areas with low levels of D-serine.

Activation of the NMDAR co-agonist-binding site by D-serine and glycine is mandatory for induction of synaptic plasticity. D-serine acts primarily at synaptic NMDARs whereas glycine acts primarily at extrasynaptic NMDARs.

In normal aging there is decreased expression of serine racemase and decreased levels of D-serine and down-regulation of NMDARs, resulting in impaired synaptic plasticity and deficits in learning and memory. In contrast, in AD there appears to be activation of serine racemase, increased levels of D-serine and overstimulation of NMDARs, resulting in cytotoxicity, synaptic deficits, and dementia.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.754032/full “An Overview of the Involvement of D-Serine in Cognitive Impairment in Normal Aging and Dementia”


PXL_20220518_093600487

Brain changes

This 2022 human study investigated healthy young adult brain changes using MRI and epigenetic clock technologies:

“We aimed to characterize the association of epigenetic age (i.e. estimated DNA methylation age) and its acceleration with surface area, cortical thickness, and volume in healthy young adults. It is largely unknown how accelerated epigenetic age affects multiple cortical features among young adults from 19 to 49 years. Prior findings imply not only that these dynamic changes reveal different aspects of cortical aging, but also that chronological age itself is not a reliable factor to understand the process of cortical aging.

accelerated epigenetic age vs brain features

Seventy-nine young healthy individuals participated in this study. Findings of our study should be interpreted within the context of relatively small sample size, without older adults, and with epigenetic age assessed from saliva.

Additional and unique regional changes due to advanced and accelerated epigenetic age, compared to chronological age-related changes, suggest that epigenetic age could be a viable biomarker of cortical aging. Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies with a larger sample and wider age range are necessary to characterize ongoing effects of epigenetic cortical aging, not only for healthy but also for pathological aging.”

https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhac043 “The effects of epigenetic age and its acceleration on surface area, cortical thickness, and volume in young adults” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Yong Jeon Cheong for providing a copy.

State-dependent memory

This 2021 review by two coauthors of What can cause memories that are accessible only when returning to the original brain state? provided evidence for alternative interpretations of memory experiments:

“Memory consolidation hypotheses postulate a long series of various and time consuming elaborate processes that come to protect memory from disruption after various periods of time. For more than fifty years, consolidation hypotheses led to the idea that:

  1. Memories are fragile and can easily be disrupted; and
  2. Memories require several hours to be encoded (Cellular Consolidation), and extensive periods of time (days to weeks and even months and years), to be definitely stabilized (Systems Consolidation).

Although these views rely on well substantiated findings, their interpretation can be called into question.

An alternative position is that amnesia reflects retrieval difficulties due to contextual changes. This simple explanation is able to account for most, if not all, results obtained in consolidation studies.

memory state dependency

Systems Consolidation can be explained in terms of a form of state-dependency.

Recent memory remains detailed, context-specific (in animals), and vivid (in humans) and very susceptible to contextual changes. With the passage of time, memories become less precise, and retention performance less and less affected by contextual changes.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763421005510 “Revisiting systems consolidation and the concept of consolidation” (not freely available)


I came across this review while trying to understand why a 2022 rodent study felt wrong. That study followed the standard memory paradigm, and I appreciate its lead author providing a copy since it wasn’t otherwise available.

But those researchers boxed themselves in with consolidation explanations for findings. They used drugs to change subjects’ memories’ contexts between training and testing. They didn’t see that tested memories were dependent on subjects’ initial brain states.

This review cited a paper abstracted in Resiliency in stress responses, namely Neurobiological mechanisms of state-dependent learning.


Crab for lunch

PXL_20220419_190655701

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”


PXL_20220415_184720157

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

Stress

Drugs

Race and Host Genetics

Aging

Lifestyle

  • 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.

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 CUMS

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

PXL_20220221_192924474

Lifespan Uber Correlation

This 2022 study developed new epigenetic clocks:

“Maximum lifespan is deemed to be a stable trait in species. The rate of biological function decline (i.e., aging) would be expected to correlate inversely with maximum species lifespan. Although aging and maximum lifespan are intimately intertwined, they nevertheless appear in some investigations to be distinct processes.

Some cytosines conserved across mammals exhibit age-related methylation changes so consistent that they were used to successfully develop cross-species age predictors. In a similar vein, methylation levels of some conserved cytosines correlate highly with species lifespan, leading to the development of highly accurate lifespan predictors. Surprisingly, little to no commonality is found between these two sets of cytosines.

We correlated the intra-species age correlation with maximum lifespan across mammalian species. We refer to this correlation of correlations as Lifespan Uber Correlation (LUC).

We overlapped genes from the LUC signature with genes found in human genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of various pathologies and conditions. With all due caution, we report that some genes from the LUC signature were those highlighted by GWAS to be associated with type II diabetes, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and breast cancer.

Human aging genes vs mammalian LUC

We used the subset of CpGs found to be significant in our LUC to build age estimators (epigenetic clocks). We demonstrated that these clocks are able to capture effects of interventions that are known to alter age as well as lifespan, such as caloric restriction, growth hormone receptor knockout, and high-fat diet.

We found that Bcl11b heterozygous knockout mice exhibited an increased epigenetic age in the striatum. BCL11B is a zinc finger protein with a wide range of functions, including development of the brain, immune system, and cardiac system.

This gene is also implicated in several human diseases including, but not limited to, Huntington disease, Alzheimer’s diseases, HIV, and T-cell malignancies. BCL11B plays an important role in adult neurogenesis, but is less studied in the context of lifespan disparities in mammals.

Bcl11b knockout affected both DNA methylation and mRNA expression of LUC genes. Our current study does not inform us about the potential role of Bcl11b in aging processes during adulthood since observed patterns could be attributed to developmental defects.

We are characterizing other genetic and non-genetic interventions that perturb the LUC clocks. These we will feature in a separate report that will uncover biological processes regulated by LUC cytosines and their associated genes.”

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.16.476530v1 “Divergent age-related methylation patterns in long and short-lived mammals”


PXL_20220106_201346155

Offspring brain effects from maternal adversity

This 2021 rodent study investigated conception through weaning effects on offspring from stressing their mothers:

“We investigated consequences of two prenatal insults, prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and food-related stress, on DNA methylation profiles of the rat brain during early development. We analyzed patterns in prefrontal cortex, a key brain region involved in cognition, executive function, and behavior, of both males and females, and found sex-dependent and sex-concordant influences of these insults.

The pair-fed (PF) group in the PAE model is a standard control for effects of alcohol in reducing food intake. However, compared to the PAE group that, albeit eating less, eats ad libitum, pair-feeding is a treatment in itself, with PF dams receiving a restricted ration, which results in both hunger and a disrupted feeding schedule. These stress-related effects could potentially parallel or model food scarcity or food insecurity in human populations.

We observed more DMRs (Differentially Methylated Regions) that showed decreased DNAm rather than increased DNAm in PF animals, suggesting that food-related stress may interfere with one-carbon metabolism and the pathways that deposit methylation on DNA. We also identified a sex-concordant DMR that showed decreased DNAm in PF animals in the glucocorticoid receptor Nr3c1, which plays a key role in stress responsivity and may reflect a reprogramming of the stress response.

This result is in line with previous studies that have shown that pair-feeding is a considerable stressor on dams, with lasting consequences on development, behavior, and physiology of their offspring. Altered DNAm of this key HPA axis gene may reflect broader alterations to stress response systems, which may in turn, influence programming of numerous physiological systems linked to the stress response, including immune function, metabolic processes, and circadian rhythms.

In PAE and PF animals compared to controls, we identified 26 biological pathways that were enriched in females, including those involved in cellular stress and metabolism, and 10 biological pathways enriched in males, which were mainly involved in metabolic processes. These findings suggest that PAE and restricted feeding, both of which act in many respects as prenatal stressors, may influence some common biological pathways, which may explain some of the occasional overlap between their resulting phenotypes.

genes-12-01773-g005

This study highlights the complex network of neurobiological pathways that respond to prenatal adversity/stressors and that modulate differential effects of early life insults on functional and health outcomes. Study of these exposures provides a unique opportunity to investigate sex-specific effects of prenatal adversity on epigenetic patterns, as possible biological mechanisms underlying sex-specific responses to prenatal insults are understudied and remain largely unknown.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4425/12/11/1773/htm “Prenatal Adversity Alters the Epigenetic Profile of the Prefrontal Cortex: Sexually Dimorphic Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Food-Related Stress”


PXL_20211215_182428532

Human agency vs. brain dysfunction

This 2021 human study used epigenetic clock technology to assess chronic inflammation as a driver of cognitive decline through its effects on brain structure:

“An epigenetic measure of C-reactive protein (DNAm CRP) was assembled for each participant. We found that higher inflammatory burden, indexed by DNAm CRP scores, associated with poor cognitive and neuroimaging brain health outcomes.

inflammation vs cognitive ability

DNAm CRP exhibited significantly larger associations with brain structural MRI metrics (including global grey and white matter atrophy, poorer white matter microstructure, and increased white matter hyperintensity burden) than serum CRP. Given that the 7 CpGs which make up DNAm CRP score reside in inflammation and vascular-related genes, these DNAm CRP-brain MRI associations may be capturing the impact of upstream inflammatory activity above and beyond that of serum CRP levels.

Our results indicate that some cognitive domains (processing speed) may be more mediated by brain structural consequences of chronic inflammation than others (verbal memory, visuospatial ability).

Our results add to the evidence base that DNAm-based predictors of inflammation may act as a quantifiable archive of longitudinal effects of these exposures – and other unaccounted for health and genetic profiles – that serum CRP levels fail to capture. By utilising an epigenetic inflammation measure, which integrates information from multiple immune-related CpG sites, we may provide a more reliable measure of chronic inflammation and thus a more comprehensive overview of consequences of chronic inflammation on brain structure and function.”

https://n.neurology.org/content/early/2021/11/17/WNL.0000000000012997.long “DNA Methylation and Protein Markers of Chronic Inflammation and Their Associations With Brain and Cognitive Aging”


These researchers essentially negated many of their findings by acknowledging:

“Although we endeavoured to remove participants with cognition-related pathology, these were screened via self-reported diagnoses, and we may be missing undiagnosed or subclinical incident neurodegenerative pathology.”

It wasn’t sufficient to claim in the Abstract section “Participants (N = 521) were cognitively normal, around 73 years of age” then include in the Discussion section a one-sentence limitation of relying on self-reports. Everyone defends themself against current and past realities and experiences.

Hard to imagine that objective measures such as the three comprising cognitive ability weren’t better screens. But then too many 73-year-old subjects may not have been “cognitively normal” and this study wouldn’t be adequately powered?

Can humans counteract inflammation? Non-communicable diseases? Smoking? Immune system degradation? Yes. No personal-agency actions were mentioned.

Also note this study’s social norming. The above-pictured 30-year-old female was busy at work, and subsequently hoisted a cat instead of a child in later years.

Take responsibility for your own one precious life.

PXL_20211118_114858264

Epigenetic clocks so far in 2021

2021’s busiest researcher took time out this month to update progress on epigenetic clocks:

Hallmarks of aging aren’t all associated with epigenetic aging.

epigenetic aging vs. hallmarks of aging

Interventions that increase cellular lifespan aren’t all associated with epigenetic aging.

epigenetic aging vs. cellular lifespan

Many of his authored or coauthored 2021 papers developed human / mammalian species relative-age epigenetic clocks.

epigenetic clock mammalian maximum lifespan

Relative-age epigenetic clocks better predict human results from animal testing.

pan-mammalian epigenetic clock


Previously curated papers that were mentioned or relevant included:

Natural products vs. neurodegenerative diseases

I was recently asked about taking rapamycin for its effects on mTOR. I replied that diet could do the same thing. Here’s a 2021 review outlining such effects:

“As common, progressive, and chronic causes of disability and death, neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) significantly threaten human health, while no effective treatment is available. Recent studies have revealed the role of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt (Protein kinase B)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in some diseases and natural products with therapeutic potentials.

Growing evidence highlights the dysregulated PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway and interconnected mediators in pathogenesis of NDDs. Side effects and drug-resistance of conventional neuroprotective agents urge the need for providing alternative therapies.

1-s2.0-S0944711321002075-ga1_lrg

Polyphenols, alkaloids, carotenoids, and terpenoids have shown to be capable of a great modulation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR in NDDs. Natural products potentially target various important oxidative/inflammatory/apoptotic/autophagic molecules/mediators, such as Bax, Bcl-2, p53, caspase-3, caspase-9, NF-κB, TNF-α, GSH, SOD, MAPK, GSK-3β, Nrf2/HO-1, JAK/STAT, CREB/BDNF, ERK1/2, and LC3 towards neuroprotection.

This is the first systematic and comprehensive review with a simultaneous focus on the critical role of PI3K/Akt/mTOR in NDDs and associated targeting by natural products.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0944711321002075 “Natural products attenuate PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway: A promising strategy in regulating neurodegeneration” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Sajad Fakhri for providing a copy.


Natural products mentioned in this review that I eat in everyday foods are listed below. The most effective ones are broccoli and red cabbage sprouts, and oats and oat sprouts:

  • Artichokes – luteolin;
  • Blackberries – anthocyanins;
  • Blueberries – anthocyanins, gallic acid, pterostilbene;
  • Broccoli and red cabbage sprouts – anthocyanins, kaempferol, luteolin, quercetin, sulforaphane;
  • Carrots – carotenoids;
  • Celery – apigenin, luteolin;
  • Green tea – epigallocatechin gallate;
  • Oats and oat sprouts – avenanthramides;
  • Strawberries – anthocyanins, fisetin;
  • Tomatoes – fisetin.

Four humpback whales

PXL_20210914_170732350_exported_43137

Screenshot_20210914-121800

All about vasopressin

This 2021 review subject was vasopressin:

“Vasopressin is a ubiquitous molecule playing an important role in a wide range of physiological processes, thereby implicated in pathomechanisms of many disorders. The most striking is its central effect in stress-axis regulation, as well as regulating many aspects of our behavior.

Arginine-vasopressin (AVP) is a nonapeptide that is synthesized mainly in the supraoptic, paraventricular (PVN), and suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. AVP cell groups of hypothalamus and midbrain were found to be glutamatergic, whereas those in regions derived from cerebral nuclei were mainly GABAergic.

In the PVN, AVP can be found together with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), the main hypothalamic regulator of the HPA axis. The AVPergic system participates in regulation of several physiological processes, from stress hormone release through memory formation, thermo- and pain regulation, to social behavior.

vasopressin stress axis

AVP determines behavioral responses to environmental stimuli, and participates in development of social interactions, aggression, reproduction, parental behavior, and belonging. Alterations in AVPergic tone may be implicated in pathology of stress-related disorders (anxiety and depression), Alzheimer’s, posttraumatic stress disorder, as well as schizophrenia.

An increasing body of evidence confirms epigenetic contribution to changes in AVP or AVP receptor mRNA level, not only during the early perinatal period, but also in adulthood:

  • DNA methylation is more targeted on a single gene; and it is better characterized in relation to AVP;
  • Some hint for bidirectional interaction with histone acetylation was also described; and
  • miRNAs are implicated in the hormonal, peripheral role of AVP, and less is known about their interaction regarding behavioral alteration.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/17/9415/htm “Epigenetic Modulation of Vasopressin Expression in Health and Disease”


Find your way, regardless of what the herd does.

PXL_20210911_103344386

PTSD susceptibility?

This 2021 rodent study investigated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) susceptibility:

“PTSD is an incapacitating trauma-related disorder, with no reliable therapy. We show distinct DNA methylation profiles of PTSD susceptibility in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Data analysis revealed overall hypomethylation of different genomic CpG sites in susceptible animals.

Is it possible to treat PTSD by targeting epigenetic processes? Such an approach might reverse genomic underpinning of PTSD and serve as a cure.

To test plausibility of such an approach, a reliable animal (rat) model with high construct validity is needed. Previously, we reported one such model, which uses predator-associated trauma, and cue reminders to evoke recurring trauma. This simulates clinical PTSD symptoms including re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal.

Individual PTSD-like (susceptible) behavior is analyzed, enabling identification of susceptible animals separately from those that are non-PTSD-like (resilient). This model captures salient features of this disorder in humans, in which only a fraction of trauma victims develop PTSD, while others are resilient.

experimental model

Sprague–Dawley rats were exposed to trauma and to three subsequent trauma-associated reminders. Freezing behavior was measured under conditions of:

  • Exploration;
  • Social interaction (with a companion); and
  • Hyperarousal.

Controls were exposed to identical conditions except for the traumatic event.

PTSD-like behavior of each animal was compared with baseline and with the population. Two unambiguous sub-populations were identified, resilient and susceptible.

After exposure to trauma and its reminders, susceptible animals showed an increase from baseline in freezing behavior, and over time in all three behavioral tests, as opposed to resilient and control groups.

DMRs

Differentially methylated sites in susceptible and resilient animals compared to control group.

Although we focused in this study on DNA methylation changes that associate with susceptibility, we also report unique changes in DNA methylation that occur in resilient animals. Inhibition of critical genes that are downregulated in susceptible animals convert resilient animals to become susceptible.”

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353192082_Reduction_of_DNMT3a_and_RORA_in_the_nucleus_accumbens_plays_a_causal_role_in_post-traumatic_stress_disorder-like_behavior_reversal_by_combinatorial_epigenetic_therapy “Reduction of DNMT3a and RORA in the nucleus accumbens plays a causal role in post-traumatic stress disorder-like behavior: reversal by combinatorial epigenetic therapy” (registration required)


Rodents with the same genetics and environment displayed individual differences in their responses to traumatic events. Researchers, provide evidence for that before venturing elsewhere.

Not sure why it took 3+ years for this study received in November 2017 to finally be published in July 2021. Sites other than https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01178-y are more transparent about their peer review and publication processes.

No causes for PTSD susceptibility were investigated. PTSD effects and symptoms aren’t causes, notwithstanding this study’s finding that:

“Our results support a causal role for the NAc as a critical brain region for expression of PTSD-like behaviors, and a role for programming genes by DNA methylation in the NAc in development of PTSD-like behaviors.”

Can’t say that I understand more about causes for PTSD susceptibility now than before I read this study. Researchers attaching significance to gene functional groups seemed like hypothesis-seeking efforts to overcome limited findings.

Will this study’s combination of a methyl donor with a Vitamin A metabolite address PTSD causes in humans? If it only temporarily alleviates symptoms, what lasting value will it have?


Several brain and body areas that store traumatic memories other than the nucleus accumbens were mentioned in The role of recall neurons in traumatic memories. A wide range of epigenetic memory storage vehicles is one reason why effective human therapies need to address each individual, their whole body, and their entire history.

PXL_20210714_095056317

Osprey breakfast