Proline restores mitochondrial function and reverses aging hallmarks in senescent cells


Mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of cellular senescence, with the loss of mitochondrial function identified as a potential causal factor contributing to senescence-associated decline in cellular functions. Our recent findings revealed that ectopic expression of the pluripotency transcription factor NANOG rejuvenates dysfunctional mitochondria of senescent cells by rewiring metabolic pathways. In this study, we report that NANOG restores the expression of key enzymes, PYCR1 and PYCR2, in the proline biosynthesis pathway. Additionally, senescent mesenchymal stem cells manifest severe mitochondrial respiratory impairment, which is alleviated through proline supplementation. Proline induces mitophagy by activating AMP-activated protein kinase α and upregulating Parkin expression, enhancing mitochondrial clearance and ultimately restoring cell metabolism. Notably, proline treatment also mitigates several aging hallmarks, including DNA damage, senescence-associated β-galactosidase, inflammatory cytokine expressions, and impaired myogenic differentiation capacity. Overall, this study highlights the role of proline in mitophagy and its potential in reversing senescence-associated mitochondrial dysfunction and aging hallmarks.

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