Transcriptome-Wide piRNA Profiling in Human Brains for Aging Genetic Factors

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OBJECTIVE: Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) represent a molecular feature shared by all nonaging biological systems, including the germline and somatic cancer stem cells, which display an indefinite renewal capacity and lifespan-stable genomic integrity and are potentially immortal. Here, we tested the hypothesis that piRNA is a critical genetic determinant of aging in humans. METHODS: Expression of transcriptome-wide piRNAs (n=24k) was profiled in the human prefrontal cortex of 12 subjects (84.9±9.5, range 68-100, years of age) using microarray technology. We examined the correlation between these piRNAs' expression levels and age, adjusting for covariates including disease status. RESULTS: A total of 9,453 piRNAs were detected in brain. Including seven intergenic and three intronic piRNAs, ten piRNAs were significantly associated with age after correction for multiple testing (|r|=0.9; 1.9×10≤p≤9.9×10). CONCLUSION: We conclude that piRNAs might play a potential role in determining the years of survival of humans. The underlying mechanisms might involve the suppression of transposable elements (TEs) and expression regulation of aging-associated genes.

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