Aging Cell 18 (6) e13029 [2019-12-00; online 2019-09-06]
The accumulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations is a suspected driver of aging and age-related diseases, but forestalling these changes has been a major challenge. One of the best-studied models is the prematurely aging mtDNA mutator mouse, which carries a homozygous knock-in of a proofreading deficient version of the catalytic subunit of mtDNA polymerase-γ (PolgA). We investigated how voluntary exercise affects the progression of aging phenotypes in this mouse, focusing on mitochondrial and protein homeostasis in both brain and peripheral tissues. Voluntary exercise significantly ameliorated several aspects of the premature aging phenotype, including decreased locomotor activity, alopecia, and kyphosis, but did not have major effects on the decreased lifespan of mtDNA mutator mice. Exercise also decreased the mtDNA mutation load. In-depth tissue proteomics revealed that exercise normalized the levels of about half the proteins, with the majority involved in mitochondrial function and nuclear-mitochondrial crosstalk. There was also a specific increase in the nuclear-encoded proteins needed for the tricarboxylic acid cycle and complex II, but not in mitochondrial-encoded oxidative phosphorylation proteins, as well as normalization of enzymes involved in coenzyme Q biosynthesis. Furthermore, we found tissue-specific alterations, with brain coping better as compared to muscle and with motor cortex being better protected than striatum, in response to mitochondrial dysfunction. We conclude that voluntary exercise counteracts aging in mtDNA mutator mice by counteracting protein dysregulation in muscle and brain, decreasing the mtDNA mutation burden in muscle, and delaying overt aging phenotypes.