Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 3 October 2001
Vol. 2001, Issue 1, p. tg11


Ames Dwarf;2001/1/tg11

Mouse Ames Dwarf (Prop-1df)
Genetic background Ames stock
Gene changed Prop-1
Type of change Isolated as a point mutation.
Nature of protein Prop-1 encodes a 226-amino acid soluble protein, a transcription factor involved in the embryonic development of the pituitary gland.
Phenotype Because the mutation is recessive, only homozygotes have an abnormal phenotype. The adult body size of Ames mice is about one-third that of wild-type mice, and these mice also show stunted growth. Ames mice are deficient in growth hormone (GH), prolactin (PRL), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and have very low levels of circulating insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Females are infertile and males are almost always infertile.
Corresponding human phenotype Preliminary evidence of increased longevity in humans with mutations in the prop-1 gene.
Primary reference H. M. Brown-Borg, K. E. Borg, C. J. Meliska, A. Bartke, Dwarf mice and the ageing process. Nature 384, 33 (1996).
Additional references See below.
Source Ames dwarf mice are commercially available through the Jackson Laboratory (stock no. 001618) (
Other comments For more information on Ames dwarf mice, see below.
Other links Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) entry for human Prop-1:
Related transgenic/knockout mice:
Little Mice:;2001/4/tg14
Snell Dwarf Mice:;2001/3/tg13
SAGE KE's Genes/Interventions database:;116
Keywords Growth hormone, life-span extension, Ames dwarf, prop-1, Snell dwarf, Little dwarf, IGF-1.
Prepared by Florian Muller

Ames Dwarf Mice

The df mutation, which causes the Ames dwarf mouse phenotype, is found in the prop-1 gene, which encodes a transcription factor required for the proper development of the anterior pituitary gland. The mutation in prop-1 leads to an underdevelopment of the pituitary gland, which renders the Ames mice deficient in GH, TSH, and PRL. Experimental evidence suggests that the life-span-extending effect results mostly from the GH deficiency, because overexpression of GH leads to the reduction of life-span, and the Little dwarf mouse (which was produced by knocking out the gene encoding the GH receptor) also shows increased longevity [albeit life-span extention in the Little dwarf mouse (lit/lit) is not quite as extensive as with the Snell or Ames dwarf mice, and in the Little mouse extension of life-span is dependent on a low-fat diet].

The Ames mutation was the first mutation reported to increase the average as well as the maximum life-span of a mammalian organism. The extension in average life-span is ~50%, and the extension in maximal life-span is ~40%. Just as with wild-type lab mice, in Ames mice, caloric restriction further increases life-span. Because the effects on life-span brought on by caloric restriction and the Ames mutation are additive, one can conclude that the pituitary hormones are most likely not involved in the life-extending effect brought on by caloric restriction. At present, it is unclear what mechanisms underlie the increased longevity seen in the Ames mice; however, the existing evidence suggests the involvement of the GH/IGF-1 axis. However, in Little mice, which are deficient only in GH (not in TSH or PRL), the extension in maximum life-span is only 15% (versus about 40% in the Ames mice). This may be related to the absence of the TSH deficiency in Little mice; it has been reported that artificially induced hypothyroidism does indeed increase life-span in rats. However, it is premature to speculate on this matter. The results regarding the lit/lit animals should be regarded as somewhat preliminary because of the small sample size used for the longevity studies.

It is possible that the increased longevity in Ames mice is brought about by a decrease in metabolic rate. Core body temperature is decreased by around 1.5°C in Ames mice as compared with wild-type mice. Paradoxically, mass-adjusted food intake is greater in Ames mice than in wild-type mice. It has also been suggested that elevation in antioxidants may cause the increased longevity in Ames mice. Indeed, Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase are modestly elevated in Ames mice. However, it is unlikely that overxpression of Cu,Zn SOD is responsible for increased longevity in Ames mice, because (i) full knockout of Cu,Zn SOD in mice has no effect on life-span, and (ii) overexpression of Cu,Zn SOD has no effect on life-span.

Florian Muller

October 3, 2001

  1. A. Bartke, H. Brown-Borg, B. Kinney, J. Mattison, C. Wright, S. Hauck, K. Coschigano, J. J. Kopchick, Growth hormone and aging. J. Am. Aging Assoc. 23, 219-225 (2000).
  2. A. Bartke, H. Brown-Borg, J. Mattison, B. Kinney, S. Hauck, C. Wright, Prolonged longevity of hypopituitary dwarf mice. Exp. Gerontol. 36, 21-28 (2001).[CrossRef][Medline]
  3. H. M. Brown-Borg, K. E. Borg, C. J. Meliska, A. Bartke, Dwarf mice and the ageing process. Nature 384, 33 (1996).[Medline]
  4. K. Flurkey, J. Papaconstantinou, R. A. Miller, D. E. Harrison, Lifespan extension and delayed immune and collagen aging in mutant mice with defects in growth hormone production. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 98, 6736-6741 (2001).[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  5. W. S. Hunter, W. B. Croson, A. Bartke, M. V. Gentry, C. J. Meliska, Low body temperature in long-lived Ames dwarf mice at rest and during stress. Physiol. Behav. 67, 433-437 (1999).[CrossRef][Medline]
  6. J. A. Mattison, C. Wright, R. T. Bronson, G. S. Roth, D. K. Ingram, A. Bartke, Studies of aging in Ames dwarf mice: Effects of caloric restriction. J. Am.. Aging Assoc. 23, 9-16 (2000).
  7. R. A. Miller, Kleemeier award lecture: Are there genes for aging? J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 54, B297-307 (1999).[Medline]
  8. H. Ooka, T. Shinkai, Effects of chronic hyperthyroidism on the lifespan of the rat. Mech. Ageing Dev. 33, 275-82 (1986).[CrossRef][Medline]

Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150