Amino Acids in the Regulation of Aging and Aging-Related Diseases

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Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, but also play important cellular signaling roles. The mechanisms through which altered levels of many amino acids are sensed and the signals transmitted are still largely unknown. Increasing evidence is showing that these signals may influence the aging process. In this regard, methionine restriction appears to be an evolutionary conserved mechanism to delay aging and supplementation with glycine can mimic methionine restriction to extend lifespan in rodents. Tryptophan restriction may also activate specific anti-aging pathways, but it could interfere with cognitive function. With exercise the consumption of dietary branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) may be beneficial in building muscle mass, but high levels of BCAAs as well as tyrosine and phenylalanine in the bloodstream are associated with metabolic disease such as insulin resistance. Individual supplementation or restriction of several different amino acids has shown promise in the treatment of insulin resistance in rodents. Much progress regarding the effects of amino acids on longevity has been made using yeast, nematodes, and fruit flies. Clearly, much more research is needed to understand the signaling pathways activated by amino acid imbalance before efficacious and well-tolerated dietary interventions can be developed for human aging and aging-related disorders. In this review the mechanisms through which altered dietary and cellular levels of the twenty proteogenic amino acids affect aging or aging-related disorders are discussed.