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Age-dependent changes in mean and variance of gene expression across tissues in a twin cohort

By Ana ViƱuela, Andrew A Brown, Alfonso Buil, Pei-Chien Tsai, Matthew N Davies, Jordana T. Bell, Emmanouil T. Dermitzakis, Timothy D. Spector, Kerrin S. Small

Posted 14 Jul 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/063883 (published DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddx424)

Gene expression changes with age have consequences for healthy aging and disease development. Here we investigate age-related changes in gene expression measured by RNA-seq in four tissues and the interplay between genotypes and age-related changes in expression. Using concurrently measured methylation array data from fat we also investigate the relationship between methylation, gene expression and age. We identified age-dependent changes in mean levels of gene expression in 5,631 genes and in splicing of 904 genes. Age related changes were widely shared across tissues, with up to 60% of age-related changes in expression and 47% on splicing in multi-exonic genes shared; amongst these we highlight effects on genes involved in diseases such as Alzheimer and cancer. We identified 137 genes with age-related changes in variance and 42 genes with age-dependent discordance between genetically identical individuals; implying the latter are driven by environmental effects. We also give four examples where genetic control of expression is affected by the aging process. Analysis of methylation observed a widespread and stronger effect of age on methylation than expression; however we did not find a strong relationship between age-related changes in both expression and methylation. In summary, we quantified aging affects in splicing, level and variance of gene expression, and show that these processes can be both environmentally and genetically influenced.

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