DNA Methylation Clocks in Aging: Categories, Causes, and Consequences

Mol Cell. 2018 Sep 20;71(6):882-895. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2018.08.008.


Age-associated changes to the mammalian DNA methylome are well documented and thought to promote diseases of aging, such as cancer. Recent studies have identified collections of individual methylation sites whose aggregate methylation status measures chronological age, referred to as the DNA methylation clock. DNA methylation may also have value as a biomarker of healthy versus unhealthy aging and disease risk; in other words, a biological clock. Here we consider the relationship between the chronological and biological clocks, their underlying mechanisms, potential consequences, and their utility as biomarkers and as targets for intervention to promote healthy aging and longevity.

Keywords: DNA methylation; aging; biological age; chronological age; clock; epigenetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / genetics
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics