Emergence of heartbeat frailty in advanced age I: perspectives from life-long EKG recordings in adult mice

Jack M. Moen, Christopher H. Morrell, Michael G. Matt, Ismayil Ahmet, Syevda Tagirova, Moran Davoodi, Michael Petr, Shaquille Charles, Rafael de Cabo, Yael Yaniv, Edward G. Lakatta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The combined influences of sinoatrial nodal (SAN) pacemaker cell automaticity and its response to autonomic input determine the heart’s beating interval variability and mean beating rate. To determine the intrinsic SAN and autonomic signatures buried within EKG RR interval time series change in advanced age, we measured RR interval variability before and during double autonomic blockade at 3-month intervals from 6 months of age until the end of life in long-lived (those that achieved the total cohort median life span of 24 months and beyond) C57/BL6 mice. Prior to 21 months of age, time-dependent changes in intrinsic RR interval variability and mean RR interval were relatively minor. Between 21 and 30 months of age, however, marked changes emerged in intrinsic SAN RR interval variability signatures, pointing to a reduction in the kinetics of pacemaker clock mechanisms, leading to reduced synchronization of molecular functions within and among SAN cells. This loss of high-frequency signal processing within intrinsic SAN signatures resulted in a marked increase in the mean intrinsic RR interval. The impact of autonomic signatures on RR interval variability were net sympathetic and partially compensated for the reduced kinetics of the intrinsic SAN RR interval variability signatures, and partially, but not completely, shifted the EKG RR time series intervals to a more youthful pattern. Cross-sectional analyses of other subsets of C57/BL6 ages indicated that at or beyond the median life span of our longitudinal cohort, noncardiac, constitutional, whole-body frailty was increased, energetic efficiency was reduced, and the respiratory exchange ratio increased. We interpret the progressive reduction in kinetics in intrinsic SAN RR interval variability signatures in this context of whole-body frailty beyond 21 months of age to be a manifestation of “heartbeat frailty.”

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2801-2830
Number of pages30
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Heart rate variability
  • Longitudinal aging
  • Sinoatrial node

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ageing
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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