Gene expression signatures of human cell and tissue longevity

NPJ Aging Mech Dis. 2016 Jul 7;2:16014. doi: 10.1038/npjamd.2016.14. eCollection 2016.


Different cell types within the body exhibit substantial variation in the average time they live, ranging from days to the lifetime of the organism. The underlying mechanisms governing the diverse lifespan of different cell types are not well understood. To examine gene expression strategies that support the lifespan of different cell types within the human body, we obtained publicly available RNA-seq data sets and interrogated transcriptomes of 21 somatic cell types and tissues with reported cellular turnover, a bona fide estimate of lifespan, ranging from 2 days (monocytes) to a lifetime (neurons). Exceptionally long-lived neurons presented a gene expression profile of reduced protein metabolism, consistent with neuronal survival and similar to expression patterns induced by longevity interventions such as dietary restriction. Across different cell lineages, we identified a gene expression signature of human cell and tissue turnover. In particular, turnover showed a negative correlation with the energetically costly cell cycle and factors supporting genome stability, concomitant risk factors for aging-associated pathologies. In addition, the expression of p53 was negatively correlated with cellular turnover, suggesting that low p53 activity supports the longevity of post-mitotic cells with inherently low risk of developing cancer. Our results demonstrate the utility of comparative approaches in unveiling gene expression differences among cell lineages with diverse cell turnover within the same organism, providing insights into mechanisms that could regulate cell longevity.