Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are an emerging class of non-coding RNA molecules that are thought to regulate gene expression and human disease. Despite the observation that circRNAs are known to accumulate in older organisms and have been reported in cellular senescence, their role in aging remains relatively unexplored. Here, we have assessed circRNA expression in aging human blood and followed up age-associated circRNA in relation to human aging phenotypes, mammalian longevity as measured by mouse median strain lifespan and cellular senescence in four different primary human cell types. We found that circRNAs circDEF6, circEP300, circFOXO3 and circFNDC3B demonstrate associations with parental longevity or hand grip strength in 306 subjects from the InCHIANTI study of aging, and furthermore, circFOXO3 and circEP300 also demonstrate differential expression in one or more human senescent cell types. Finally, four circRNAs tested showed evidence of conservation in mouse. Expression levels of one of these, circPlekhm1, was nominally associated with lifespan. These data suggest that circRNA may represent a novel class of regulatory RNA involved in the determination of aging phenotypes, which may show future promise as both biomarkers and future therapeutic targets for age-related disease.
Keywords: Aging phenotypes; Circular RNA; Median strain lifespan; Senescence.