Aging is characterized by numerous molecular changes, such as accumulation of molecular damage and altered gene expression, many of which are linked to DNA methylation. Here, we characterize the blood DNA methylome across 16 age groups of mice and report numerous global, region- and site-specific features, as well as the associated dynamics of methylation changes. Transition of the methylome throughout lifespan was not uniform, with many sites showing accelerated changes in late life. The associated genes and promoters were enriched for aging-related pathways, pointing to a fundamental link between DNA methylation and control of the aging process. Calorie restriction both shifted the overall methylation pattern and was accompanied by its gradual age-related remodeling, the latter contributing to the lifespan-extending effect. With age, both highly and poorly methylated sites trended toward intermediate levels, and aging was accompanied by an accelerated increase in entropy, consistent with damage accumulation. However, the entropy effects differed for the sites that increased, decreased and did not change methylation with age. Many sites trailed behind, whereas some followed or even exceeded the entropy trajectory and altered the developmental DNA methylation pattern. The patterns we observed in certain genomic regions were conserved between humans and mice, suggesting common principles of functional DNA methylome remodeling and its critical role in aging. The highly resolved DNA methylome remodeling provides an excellent model for understanding systemic changes that characterize the aging process.
Keywords: DNA methylation; aging; calorie restriction; entropy.
© 2018 The Authors. Aging Cell published by the Anatomical Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.