The objective of this study was to determine if the increase in the induction of interleukin-2 (IL-2) expression with caloric restriction correlates with changes in binding activity of the IL-2-specific transcription factor NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) and/or the ubiquitous transcription factor AP-1 in T cells from male Fischer 344 rats. Splenic T cells were isolated from young (6-month) and old (24-month) rats fed ad libitum and from old (24-month) rats fed a restricted diet (40% caloric restriction) that began at 6 weeks of age. T cells were stimulated with concanavalin A (Con A) and the expression of IL-2 and the DNA binding activity of the transcription factors NFAT and AP-1 were measured in these cells. We found that the induction of IL-2 activity and mRNA levels decreased with age and that caloric restriction significantly (P < 0.05) reduced the age-related decline in IL-2 expression. The ability of nuclear extracts from T cells isolated from old rats fed ad libitum and restricted old rats to bind to the NFAT oligonucleotide or AP-1 oligonucleotide decreased with age. Caloric restriction significantly (P < 0.05) reduced the age-related decline in NFAT but had no significant effect on AP-binding activity. We also measured the induction of c-fos and c-jun expression by Con A in T cells from young and old rats fed ad libitum or caloric- restricted diet. The induction of c-fos protein and mRNA levels but not c- jun protein or mRNA levels decreased significantly with age. Caloric restriction significantly (P < 0.05) reduced the age-related decline in c- fos expression but had no significant effect on c-jun expression. Therefore, the increase in IL-2 expression with caloric restriction correlates with an increase in binding activity of transcription factor NFAT and an increase in the expression of c-fos, which is a component of the NFAT-protein complex.
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