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PLoS One. 2008 Aug 20;3(8):e3024. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003024.

Transcriptome-wide assessment of human brain and lymphocyte senescence.

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Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Identifying biological pathways that vary across the age spectrum can provide insight into fundamental mechanisms that impact disease and frailty in the elderly. Few methodological approaches offer the means to explore this question on as broad a scale as gene expression profiling. Here, we have evaluated mRNA expression profiles as a function of age in two populations; one consisting of 191 individuals with ages-at-death ranging from 65-100 years and with post-mortem brain mRNA measurements of 13,216 genes and a second with 1240 individuals ages 15-94 and lymphocyte mRNA estimates for 18,519 genes.


Among negatively correlated transcripts, an enrichment of mitochondrial genes was evident in both populations, providing a replication of previous studies indicating this as a common signature of aging. Sample differences were prominent, the most significant being a decrease in expression of genes involved in translation in lymphocytes and an increase in genes involved in transcription in brain, suggesting that apart from energy metabolism other basic cell processes are affected by age but in a tissue-specific manner. In assessing genomic architecture, intron/exon sequence length ratios were larger among negatively regulated genes in both samples, suggesting that a decrease in the expression of non-compact genes may also be a general effect of aging. Variance in gene expression itself has been theorized to change with age due to accumulation of somatic mutations and/or increasingly heterogeneous environmental exposures, but we found no evidence for such a trend here.


Results affirm that deteriorating mitochondrial gene expression is a common theme in senescence, but also highlight novel pathways and features of gene architecture that may be important for understanding the molecular consequences of aging.

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