The epigenetic clock, defined as the DNA methylome age (DNAmAge), is a candidate biomarker of ageing. In this study, we aimed to characterize the behaviour of this marker during the human lifespan in more detail using two follow-up cohorts (the Young Finns study, calendar age i.e. cAge range at baseline 15-24 years, 25-year-follow-up, N = 183; The Vitality 90+ study, cAge range at baseline 19-90 years, 4-year-follow-up, N = 48). We also aimed to assess the relationship between DNAmAge estimate and the blood cell distributions, as both of these measures are known to change as a function of age. The subjects' DNAmAges were determined using Horvath's calculator of epigenetic cAge. The estimate of the DNA methylome age acceleration (Δ-cAge-DNAmAge) demonstrated remarkable stability in both cohorts: the individual rank orders of the DNAmAges remained largely unchanged during the follow-ups. The blood cell distributions also demonstrated significant intra-individual correlation between the baseline and follow-up time points. Interestingly, the immunosenescence-associated features (CD8+CD28- and CD4+CD28- cell proportions and the CD4/CD8 cell ratio) were tightly associated with the estimate of the DNA methylome age. In summary, our data demonstrate that the general level of Δ-cAge-DNAmAge is fixed before adulthood and appears to be quite stationary thereafter, even in the oldest-old ages. Moreover, the blood DNAmAge estimate seems to be tightly associated with ageing-associated shifts in blood cell composition, especially with those that are the hallmarks of immunosenescence. Overall, these observations contribute to the understanding of the longitudinal aspects of the DNAmAge estimate.
Keywords: DNA methylation; DNAmAge; Epigenetic clock; Follow-up; Immunosenescence.