The effect of food restriction on the mitochondria of resting and proliferating rat splenocytes was examined, measuring the membrane potential and mass of these organelles, by means of the specific fluorescent probes Rhodamine-123 and Nonyl Acridine Orange, respectively. Food restriction was applied on an every-other-day schedule (EOD) starting at the age of 3.5 months. The ad libitum fed (AL) animals were killed when they were 4, 11 and 24 months old, whereas the EOD rats were killed at 11 and 26 months. Resting lymphocytes from AL rats showed an age-dependent increase of both membrane potential and mass of their mitochondria. However, the mitochondrial mass increased to a larger extent when compared with the membrane potential resulting in a decrease of the respiratory quotient (RQ), i.e. of the respiratory activity per unit of mitochondrial mass. In EOD animals, the mitochondrial membrane potential was lower and the mitochondrial mass was higher in the corresponding age-matched controls, resulting in a further decrease of RQ. Following mitogenic stimulation, most of the cells from young and adult AL rat showed an increase of membrane potential and mass of their mitochondria. In contrast about 50% of cells from old AL rats had depolarized organelles after 72 h from the stimulation. Food restriction was able to prevent these alterations allowing the majority of cells, including those from old animals, to maintain the hyperpolarization of their mitochondria during the 3-day culture. In light of the well known sensitivity of mitochondrial membrane potential to peroxidative stress, present data suggest that the increase of respiration occurring during mitogenesis may increase free radical production, which is better tolerated by cells from EOD animals than by those from AL animals.
- Food restriction
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