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Blood DNA Methylation and Aging: A Cross-Sectional Analysis and Longitudinal Validation in the InCHIANTI Study
Ravi Tharakan 1, Ceereena Ubaida-Mohien 1, Ann Zenobia Moore 1, Dena Hernandez 2, Toshiko Tanaka 1, Luigi Ferrucci 1
Changes in DNA methylation have been found to be highly correlated with aging in humans, but causes or consequences of these changes are not understood. We characterized the DNA methylomes of several hundred people in the Invecchiare in Chianti study to identify DNA sites in which percent methylation was systematically different with age. Then, we tested the hypothesis that changes of percent methylation in the same DNA sites occur longitudinally for the same DNA sites in the same subjects. We identified six differentially methylated regions in which percent methylation showed robust longitudinal changes in the same direction. We then describe functions of the genes near these differentially methylated regions and their potential relationship with aging, noting that the genes appear to regulate metabolism or cell type specificity. The nature of transcription factor binding sites in the vicinity of these differentially methylated regions suggest that these age-associated methylation changes reflect modulation of two biological mechanisms: the polycomb repressive complex 2, a protein complex that trimethylates histone H3 on lysine 27, and the transcriptional repressor CCCTC-binding factor or CTCF, both of which are regulators of chromatin architecture. These findings are consistent with the idea that changes in methylation with aging are of adaptive nature.