Muscle aging and oxidative stress in wild-caught shrews.
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Red-toothed shrews (Soricidae, subfamily Soricinae) are an intriguing model system to examine the free-radical theory of aging in wild mammals, given their short (<18months) lifespan and high mass-specific metabolic rates. As muscle performance underlies both foraging ability and predator avoidance, any age-related decline should be detrimental to fitness and survival. Muscle samples of water shrews (Sorex palustris) and sympatrically distributed short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda) were therefore assessed for oxidative stress markers, protective antioxidant enzymes and apoptosis. Activity levels of catalase and glutathione peroxidase increased with age in both species. Similarly, Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase isoform content was elevated significantly in older animals of both species (increases of 60% in the water shrew, 25% in the short-tailed shrew). Only one oxidative stress marker (lipid peroxidation) was age-elevated; the others were stable or declined (4-hydroxynonenal adducts and dihydroethidium oxidation). Glutathione peroxidase activity was significantly higher in the short-tailed shrew, while catalase activity was 2x higher in water shrews. Oxidative stress indicators were on average higher in short-tailed shrews. Apoptosis occurred in <1% of myocytes examined, and did not increase with age. Within the constraints of the sample size we found evidence of protection against elevated oxidative stress in wild-caught shrews.