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Genetic dysregulation of gene expression and splicing during a ten-year period of human aging

By Brunilda Balliu, Matthew Durrant, Olivia de Goede, Nathan Abell, Xin Li, Boxiang Liu, Michael J. Gloudemans, Naomi L. Cook, Kevin S. Smith, Mauro Pala, Francesco Cucca, David Schlessinger, Siddhartha Jaiswal, Chiara Sabatti, Lars Lind, Erik Ingelsson, Stephen B Montgomery

Posted 13 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/519520

Molecular and cellular changes are intrinsic to aging and age-related diseases. Prior cross-sectional studies have investigated the combined effects of age and genetics on gene expression and alternative splicing; however, there has been no long-term, longitudinal characterization of these molecular changes, especially in older age. We performed RNA sequencing in whole-blood from the same individuals from the PIVUS study at ages 70 and 80 to quantify how gene expression, alternative splicing, and their genetic regulation are altered during this 10-year period of advanced aging. We observe that individuals are more similar to their own expression profiles later in life than profiles of other individuals their own age; 93% of samples cluster with their own measurement at another age, and there is a strong correlation of genetic effects on expression between the two ages (median ρG = 0.96). Despite this, we identify 1,291 and 294 genes differentially expressed and alternatively spliced with age, as well as 529 genes with outlying individual trajectories of aging. Further, 7.8% and 9.6% of tested genes show a reduction in genetic associations with expression and alternative splicing in older age, with impacted genes enriched in DNA repair pathways. Together these findings indicate that, although gene expression and alternative splicing and their genetic regulation are mostly stable late in life, a small subset of genes is dynamic and is characterized by changes in expression and splicing and a reduction in genetic regulation.

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