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Temporal changes in the gene expression heterogeneity during brain development and aging

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2020-03-01
Isildak, Ulas
Somel, Mehmet
Thornton, Janet M.
Donertas, Handan Melike
Cells in largely non-mitotic tissues such as the brain are prone to stochastic (epi-)genetic alterations that may cause increased variability between cells and individuals over time. Although increased interindividual heterogeneity in gene expression was previously reported, whether this process starts during development or if it is restricted to the aging period has not yet been studied. The regulatory dynamics and functional significance of putative aging-related heterogeneity are also unknown. Here we address these by a meta-analysis of 19 transcriptome datasets from three independent studies, covering diverse human brain regions. We observed a significant increase in inter-individual heterogeneity during aging (20 + years) compared to postnatal development (0 to 20 years). Increased heterogeneity during aging was consistent among different brain regions at the gene level and associated with lifespan regulation and neuronal functions. Overall, our results show that increased expression heterogeneity is a characteristic of aging human brain, and may influence aging-related changes in brain functions.