Brain senescence is associated with impaired endothelial barrier function, angiogenic and inflammatory activity, and propensity to brain hemorrhage. The same pathological changes occur in cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM), a genetic neurovascular anomaly. We hypothesized common transcriptomic and plasma cytokine signatures in the aging brain and CCM. We identified 320 genes [fold change ≥1.5; p < 0.05; false discovery rate (FDR) corrected] commonly dysregulated in the aging brain and CCM. Ontology and pathway analyses of the common differentially expressed genes were related to inflammation and extracellular matrix organization. Plasma levels of C-reactive protein and angiopoietin-2 were significantly greater in older compared to younger healthy non-CCM subjects and were also greater in CCM (Sporadic and Familial) subjects regardless of age (all: p < 0.05; FDR corrected). Plasma levels of vascular endothelial growth factor were significantly greater in older compared to younger subjects, in both healthy non-CCM and Sporadic-CCM groups (all: padj < 0.05). Plasma levels of vascular endothelial growth factor were also significantly greater in Familial-CCM cases with germ line mutations regardless of age (all: padj < 0.05) compared to both healthy non-CCM and Sporadic-CCM subjects. Brain white matter vascular permeability assessed by MRI followed the same pattern as vascular endothelial growth factor across all groups. In addition, quantitative susceptibility mapping of brain white matter, a measure of iron deposition, was increased in older compared to younger healthy non-CCM subjects. Genetic aberrations, plasma molecules, and imaging biomarkers in a well characterized Mendelian neurovascular disease may also be applicable in the aging brain. Graphical abstract.
Keywords: Background brain QSM; Background brain permeability; CCM disease; Neuro-vascular aging; Plasma biomarker; Transcriptome.