Skeletal Muscle Transcriptome Alterations Related to Declining Physical Function in Older Mice

J Ageing Longev. 2023 Jun;3(2):159-178. doi: 10.3390/jal3020013. Epub 2022 May 31.


One inevitable consequence of aging is the gradual deterioration of physical function and exercise capacity, driven in part by the adverse effect of age on muscle tissue. We hypothesized that relationships exist between age-related differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in skeletal muscle and age-associated declines in physical function and exercise capacity. Previously, male C57BL/6mice (6m, months old, 24m, and 28m) were tested for physical function using a composite scoring system (comprehensive functional assessment battery, CFAB) comprised of five well-validated tests of physical function. In this study, total RNA was isolated from tibialis anterior samples (n = 8) randomly selected from each age group in the parent study. Using Next Generation Sequencing RNAseq to determine DEGs during aging (6m vs. 28m, and 6m vs. 24m), we found a greater than five-fold increase in DEGs in 28m compared to the 24m. Furthermore, regression of the normalized expression of each DEG with the CFAB score of the corresponding mouse revealed many more DEGs strongly associated (R ≥ |0.70|) with functional status in the older mice. Gene ontology results indicate highly enriched axon guidance and acetyl choline receptor gene sets, suggesting that denervation/reinnervation flux might potentially play a critical role in functional decline. We conclude that specific age-related DEG patterns are associated with declines in physical function, and the data suggest accelerated aging occurring between 24 and 28 months.

Keywords: RNAseq; frailty; gene expression; physical function; sarcopenia.