Heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) protects cells from accumulating damaged proteins and age-related functional decline. We studied plasma and skeletal muscle (SkM) HSP70 levels in adult vervet monkeys (life span ≈ 25 years) at baseline and after 4 years (≈10 human years). Insulin, glucose, homeostasis model assessment scores, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein and total plasma cholesterol, body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference were measured repeatedly, with change over time estimated by individual regression slopes. Low baseline SkM HSP70 was a proximal marker for developing insulin resistance and was seen in monkeys whose insulin and homeostasis model assessment increased more rapidly over time. Changes in SkM HSP70 inversely correlated with insulin and homeostasis model assessment trajectories such that a positive change in SkM level was beneficial. The strength of the relationship between changes in SkM HSP70 and insulin remained unchanged after adjustment for all covariates. Younger monkeys drove these relationships, with HSP70 alone being predictive of insulin changes with aging. Plasma and SkM HSP70 were unrelated and HSP70 release from peripheral blood mononuclear cells was positively associated with insulin concentrations in contrast to SkM. Results from aged humans confirmed this positive association of plasma HSP70 and insulin. In conclusion, higher levels of SkM HSP70 protect against insulin resistance development during healthy aging.
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