Gene expression studies suggest that aging of the human brain is determined by a complex interplay of molecular events, although both its region- and cell-type-specific consequences remain poorly understood. Here, we extensively characterized aging-altered gene expression changes across ten human brain regions from 480 individuals ranging in age from 16 to 106 years. We show that astrocyte- and oligodendrocyte-specific genes, but not neuron-specific genes, shift their regional expression patterns upon aging, particularly in the hippocampus and substantia nigra, while the expression of microglia- and endothelial-specific genes increase in all brain regions. In line with these changes, high-resolution immunohistochemistry demonstrated decreased numbers of oligodendrocytes and of neuronal subpopulations in the aging brain cortex. Finally, glial-specific genes predict age with greater precision than neuron-specific genes, thus highlighting the need for greater mechanistic understanding of neuron-glia interactions in aging and late-life diseases.
Keywords: RNA-seq; aging; brain; exon microarrays; gene expression; immunohistochemistry; machine learning; microglia; neurons; olgiodendrocytes.
Copyright © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.