Calorie restriction (CR) enhances health span (the length of time that an organism remains healthy) and increases longevity across species. In mice, these beneficial effects are partly mediated by the lowering of core body temperature that occurs during CR. Conversely, the favorable effects of CR on health span are mitigated by elevating ambient temperature to thermoneutrality (30°C), a condition in which hypothermia is blunted.
In this study, we compared the global metabolic response to CR of mice housed at 22°C (the standard housing temperature) or at 30°C and found that thermoneutrality reverted 39 and 78% of total systemic or hypothalamic metabolic variations caused by CR, respectively. Systemic changes included pathways that control fuel use and energy expenditure during CR. Cognitive computing-assisted analysis of these metabolomics results helped to prioritize potential active metabolites that modulated the hypothermic response to CR.
Last, we demonstrated with pharmacological approaches that nitric oxide (NO) produced through the citrulline-NO pathway promotes CR-triggered hypothermia and that leucine enkephalin directly controls core body temperature when exogenously injected into the hypothalamus. Because thermoneutrality counteracts CR-enhanced health span, the multiple metabolites and pathways altered by thermoneutrality may represent targets for mimicking CR-associated effects.