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Keywords:

  • aging;
  • caloric restriction;
  • fecundity;
  • fertility;
  • menopause;
  • oocyte;
  • ovary;
  • reproduction

Summary

Age-related ovarian failure in women heralds the transition into postmenopausal life, which is characterized by a loss of fertility and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and cognitive dysfunction. Unfortunately, there are no options available for delaying loss of ovarian function with age in humans. Rodent studies have shown that caloric restriction (CR) can extend female fertile lifespan; however, much of this work initiated CR at weaning, which causes stunted adolescent growth and a delayed onset of sexual maturation. Herein we tested in mice if CR initiated in adulthood could delay reproductive aging. After 4 months of CR, the ovarian follicle reserve was doubled compared to ad libitum (AL)-fed age-matched controls, which in mating trials exhibited a loss of fertility by 15.5 months of age. In CR females returned to AL feeding at 15.5 months of age, approximately one-half remained fertile for 6 additional months and one-third continued to deliver offspring through 23 months of age. Notably, fecundity of CR-then-AL-fed females and postnatal offspring survival rates were dramatically improved compared with aging AL-fed controls. For example, between 10 and 23 months of age, only 22% of the 54 offspring delivered by AL-fed females survived. In contrast, over 73% of the 94 pups delivered by 15.5- to 23-month-old CR-then-AL-fed mice survived without any overt complications. These data indicate that in mice adult-onset CR maintains function of the female reproductive axis into advanced age and dramatically improves postnatal survival of offspring delivered by aged females.