Late-Onset, Short-Term Intermittent Fasting Reverses Age-Related Changes in Calcium Buffering and Inhibitory Synaptic Transmission in Mouse Basal Forebrain Neurons.
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Aging is often associated with cognitive decline and recurrent cellular and molecular impairments. While life-long caloric restriction (CR) may delay age-related cognitive deterioration as well as the onset of neurologic disease, recent studies suggest that late-onset, short-term intermittent fasting (IF), may show comparable beneficial effects as those of life-long CR to improve brain health. We used a new optogenetic aging model to study the effects of late-onset (>18 months), short-term (four to six weeks) IF on age-related changes in GABAergic synaptic transmission, intracellular calcium (Ca2+) buffering, and cognitive status. We used male mice from a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic mouse line with stable expression of the channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) variant H134R [VGAT-ChR2(H134R)-EYFP] in a reduced synaptic preparation that allows for specific optogenetic light stimulation on GABAergic synaptic terminals across aging. We performed quantal analysis using the method of failures in this model and show that short-term IF reverses the age-related decrease in quantal content of GABAergic synapses. Likewise, short-term IF also reversed age-related changes in Ca2+ buffering and spontaneous GABAergic synaptic transmission in basal forebrain (BF) neurons of aged mice. Our findings suggest that late-onset short-term IF can reverse age-related physiological impairments in mouse BF neurons but that four weeks IF is not sufficient to reverse age-related cognitive decline.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Here, we demonstrate plasticity of the aging brain and reversal of well-defined hallmarks of brain aging using short-term intermittent fasting (IF) initiated later in life. Few therapeutics are currently available to treat age-related neurologic dysfunction although synaptic dysfunction occurs during aging and neurologic disease is a topic of intense research. Using a new reduced synaptic preparation and optogenetic stimulation we are able to study age-related synaptic mechanisms in greater detail. Several neurophysiological parameters including quantal content were altered during aging and were reversed with short-term IF. These methods can be used to identify potential therapies to reverse physiological dysfunction during aging.