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Gene expression changes with age in skin, adipose tissue, blood and brain

Daniel Glass12, Ana Viñuela1, Matthew N Davies1, Adaikalavan Ramasamy3, Leopold Parts4, David Knowles5, Andrew A Brown4, Åsa K Hedman6, Kerrin S Small14, Alfonso Buil7, Elin Grundberg14, Alexandra C Nica7, Paola Di Meglio8, Frank O Nestle8, Mina Ryten3, the UK Brain Expression consortium1, the MuTHER consortium, Richard Durbin4, Mark I McCarthy69, Panagiotis Deloukas4, Emmanouil T Dermitzakis7, Michael E Weale3, Veronique Bataille1* and Tim D Spector1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, King's College London, St Thomas' Campus, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH, UK

2 North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, Northwick Park Hospital, Watford Road, Harrow HA1 3UJ, UK

3 Department of Medical ƒ Molecular Genetics, King's College London, Guy's Hospital, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9RT, UK

4 Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, HinxtonCB10 1SA,UK

5 Stanford University, 450 Serra MallStanford, CA 94305, USA

6 Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford OX3 7BN, UK

7 Department of Genetic Medicine and Development, University of Geneva Medical School, 1 Rue Michel-Servet (CMU office 9088), Geneva 1211, Switzerland

8 St. John's Institute of Dermatology, King's College London, Guy's Hospital, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9RT, UK

9 Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology ƒ Metabolism, University of Oxford, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, Headington OX3 7LJ,UK

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Genome Biology 2013, 14:R75  doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-7-r75

Published: 26 July 2013



Previous studies have demonstrated that gene expression levels change with age. These changes are hypothesized to influence the aging rate of an individual. We analyzed gene expression changes with age in abdominal skin, subcutaneous adipose tissue and lymphoblastoid cell lines in 856 female twins in the age range of 39-85 years. Additionally, we investigated genotypic variants involved in genotype-by-age interactions to understand how the genomic regulation of gene expression alters with age.


Using a linear mixed model, differential expression with age was identified in 1,672 genes in skin and 188 genes in adipose tissue. Only two genes expressed in lymphoblastoid cell lines showed significant changes with age. Genes significantly regulated by age were compared with expression profiles in 10 brain regions from 100 postmortem brains aged 16 to 83 years. We identified only one age-related gene common to the three tissues. There were 12 genes that showed differential expression with age in both skin and brain tissue and three common to adipose and brain tissues.


Skin showed the most age-related gene expression changes of all the tissues investigated, with many of the genes being previously implicated in fatty acid metabolism, mitochondrial activity, cancer and splicing. A significant proportion of age-related changes in gene expression appear to be tissue-specific with only a few genes sharing an age effect in expression across tissues. More research is needed to improve our understanding of the genetic influences on aging and the relationship with age-related diseases.

Aging; gene expression; skin; adipose; brain; microarrays