Human aging is associated with a progressive loss of muscle mass and strength and a concomitant fat accumulation in form of inter-muscular adipose tissue, causing skeletal muscle function decline and immobilization. Fat accumulation can also occur as intra-muscular triglycerides (IMTG) deposition in lipid droplets, which are associated with perilipin proteins, such as Perilipin2 (Plin2). It is not known whether Plin2 expression changes with age and if this has consequences on muscle mass and strength. We studied the expression of Plin2 in the vastus lateralis (VL) muscle of both healthy subjects and patients affected by lower limb mobility limitation of different age. We found that Plin2 expression increases with age, this phenomenon being particularly evident in patients. Moreover, Plin2 expression is inversely correlated with quadriceps strength and VL thickness. To investigate the molecular mechanisms underpinning this phenomenon, we focused on IGF-1/p53 network/signalling pathway, involved in muscle physiology. We found that Plin2 expression strongly correlates with increased p53 activation and reduced IGF-1 expression. To confirm these observations made on humans, we studied mice overexpressing muscle-specific IGF-1, which are protected from sarcopenia. These mice resulted almost negative for the expression of Plin2 and p53 at two years of age. We conclude that fat deposition within skeletal muscle in form of Plin2-coated lipid droplets increases with age and is associated with decreased muscle strength and thickness, likely through an IGF-1- and p53-dependent mechanism. The data also suggest that excessive intramuscular fat accumulation could be the initial trigger for p53 activation and consequent loss of muscle mass and strength.
Sub-population structure and intricate kinship dynamics might introduce biases in molecular anthropology studies and could invalidate the efforts to understand diseases in highly admixed populations. In order to clarify the previously observed distribution pattern and morbidity of Chagas disease in Gran Chaco, Argentina, we studied two populations (Wichí and Criollos) recruited following an innovative bio-cultural model considering their complex cultural interactions. By reconstructing the genetic background and the structure of these two culturally different populations, the pattern of admixture, the correspondence between genealogical and genetic relationships, this integrated perspective had the power to validate data and to link the gap usually relying on a singular discipline. Although Wichí and Criollos share the same area, these sympatric populations are differentiated from the genetic point of view as revealed by Non Recombinant Y Chromosome genotyping resulting in significantly high Fst values and in a lower genetic variability in the Wichí population. Surprisingly, the Amerindian and the European components emerged with comparable amounts (20%) among Criollos and Wichí respectively. The detailed analysis of mitochondrial DNA showed that the two populations have as much as 87% of private haplotypes. Moreover, from the maternal perspective, despite a common Amerindian origin, an Andean and an Amazonian component emerged in Criollos and in Wichí respectively. Our approach allowed us to highlight that quite frequently there is a discrepancy between self-reported and genetic kinship. Indeed, if self-reported identity and kinship are usually utilized in population genetics as a reliable proxy for genetic identity and parental relationship, in our model populations appear to be the result not only and not simply of the genetic background but also of complex cultural determinants. This integrated approach paves the way to a rigorous reconstruction of demographic and cultural history as well as of bioancestry and propensity to diseases of Wichí and Criollos.
Although adult skeletal muscle is composed of fully differentiated fibers, it retains the capacity to regenerate in response to injury and to modify its contractile and metabolic properties in response to changing demands. The major role in the growth, remodeling and regeneration is played by satellite cells, a quiescent population of myogenic precursor cells that reside between the basal lamina and plasmalemma and that are rapidly activated in response to appropriate stimuli. However, in pathologic conditions or during aging, the complete regenerative program can be precluded by fibrotic tissue formation and resulting in functional impairment of the skeletal muscle. Our study, along with other studies, demonstrated that although the regenerative program can also be impaired by the limited proliferative capacity of satellite cells, this limit is not reached during normal aging, and it is more likely that the restricted muscle repair program in aging is presumably due to missing signals that usually render the damaged muscle a permissive environment for regenerative activity.
Sarcopenia; Muscle regeneration; Satellite cells; Tissue niche; Growth factors; Stem cells
Genetic association studies of age-related, chronic human diseases often suffer from a lack of power to detect modest effects. Here we propose an alternative approach of including healthy centenarians as a more homogeneous and extreme control group. As a proof of principle we focused on type 2 diabetes (T2D) and assessed allelic/genotypic associations of 31 SNPs associated with T2D, diabetes complications and metabolic diseases and SNPs of genes relevant for telomere stability and age-related diseases. We hypothesized that the frequencies of risk variants are inversely correlated with decreasing health and longevity. We performed association analyses comparing diabetic patients and non-diabetic controls followed by association analyses with extreme phenotypic groups (T2D patients with complications and centenarians). Results drew attention to rs7903146 (TCF7L2 gene) that showed a constant increase in the frequencies of risk genotype (TT) from centenarians to diabetic patients who developed macro-complications and the strongest genotypic association was detected when diabetic patients were compared to centenarians (p_value = 9.066*10−7). We conclude that robust and biologically relevant associations can be obtained when extreme phenotypes, even with a small sample size, are compared.
Type 2 diabetes; TCF7L2; centenarians; extreme phenotypes; age-related diseases
This study examined the effect of storage temperature on the protein profile of human plasma. Plasma samples were stored for 13 days at -80°C, -20°C, +4°C and room temperature (20-25°C) prior to proteomic analysis. The proteomic comparisons were based on the differences of mean intensity values of protein spots between fresh plasma samples (named “time zero”) and plasma samples stored at different temperatures. To better understand the thermally induced biochemical changes that may affect plasma proteins during storage we identified proteins with different expressions with respect to the time zero sample.
Using two-dimensional electrophoresis followed by MALDI-TOF MS and /or LC-MS/MS 20 protein spots representing 10 proteins were identified with significant differences in abundance when stored at different temperatures. Our results, in agreement with various authors, indicate that during storage for a short period (13 days) at four different temperatures plasma proteins were more affected by degradation processes at +4°C compared to the other temperatures analysed. However, we founded that numerous protein spots (vitamin D binding protein, alpha-1-antitrypsin, serotransferrin, apoplipoprotein A-I, apolipoprotein E, haptoglobin and complement factor B) decrease in abundance with increasing temperature up to 4°C, but at room temperature their intensity mean values are similar to those of time zero and -80°C. We hypothesize that these proteins are labile at 4°C, but at the same time they are stable at room temperature (20-25°C). Furthermore we have grouped the proteins based on their different sensitivity to the storage temperature. Spots of serum albumin, fibrinogen gamma chain and haptoglobin are more resistant to the higher temperatures tested, as they have undergone changes in abundance only at room temperature; conversely, other spots of serum albumin, fibrinogen beta chain and serotransferrin are more labile as they have undergone changes in abundance at all temperatures except at -80°C.
Although there are many studies concerning protein stability of clinical samples during storage these findings may help to provide a better understanding of the changes of proteins induced by storage temperature.
Two-dimensional electrophoresis; Mass spectrometry; Plasma proteome; Specimen collection and handling; Storage temperature
The aging phenotype in humans has been thoroughly studied but a detailed metabolic profiling capable of shading light on the underpinning biological processes of longevity is still missing. Here using a combined metabonomics approach compromising holistic 1H-NMR profiling and targeted MS approaches, we report for the first time the metabolic phenotype of longevity in a well characterized human aging cohort compromising mostly female centenarians, elderly, and young individuals. With increasing age, targeted MS profiling of blood serum displayed a marked decrease in tryptophan concentration, while an unique alteration of specific glycerophospholipids and sphingolipids are seen in the longevity phenotype. We hypothesized that the overall lipidome changes specific to longevity putatively reflect centenarians' unique capacity to adapt/respond to the accumulating oxidative and chronic inflammatory conditions characteristic of their extreme aging phenotype. Our data in centenarians support promotion of cellular detoxification mechanisms through specific modulation of the arachidonic acid metabolic cascade as we underpinned increased concentration of 8,9-EpETrE, suggesting enhanced cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzyme activity. Such effective mechanism might result in the activation of an anti-oxidative response, as displayed by decreased circulating levels of 9-HODE and 9-oxoODE, markers of lipid peroxidation and oxidative products of linoleic acid. Lastly, we also revealed that the longevity process deeply affects the structure and composition of the human gut microbiota as shown by the increased extrection of phenylacetylglutamine (PAG) and p-cresol sulfate (PCS) in urine of centenarians. Together, our novel approach in this representative Italian longevity cohort support the hypothesis that a complex remodeling of lipid, amino acid metabolism, and of gut microbiota functionality are key regulatory processes marking exceptional longevity in humans.
Centenarians’ offspring represent a suitable model to study age-dependent variables (e.g. IGF-I) potentially involved in the modulation of the lifespan. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of the IGF-I in human longevity. We evaluated circulating IGF-I bioactivity measured by an innovative IGF-I Kinase Receptor Activation (KIRA) Assay, total IGF-I, IGFBP-3, total IGF-II, insulin, glucose, HOMA2-B% and HOMA2-S% in 192 centenarians’ offspring and 80 offspring-controls of which both parents died relatively young. Both groups were well-matched for age, gender and BMI with the centenarians’ offspring. IGF-I bioactivity (p<0.01), total IGF-I (p<0.01) and the IGF-I/IGFBP-3 molar ratio (p<0.001) were significantly lower in centenarians’ offspring compared to offspring matched-controls. Serum insulin, glucose, HOMA2-B% and HOMA2-S% values were similar between both groups. In centenarians’ offspring IGF-I bioactivity was inversely associated to insulin sensitivity. In conclusion: 1) centenarians’ offspring had relatively lower circulating IGF-I bioactivity compared to offspring matched-controls; 2) IGF-I bioactivity in centenarians’ offspring was inversely related to insulin sensitivity. These data support a role of the IGF-I/insulin system in the modulation of human aging process.
IGF-I bioactivity; insulin receptors; IGF-I receptors; centenarians’ offspring; centenarians; longevity
Little is known about the impact of space (geography/ancestry) and time (age of the individuals) on DNA methylation variability in humans. We investigated DNA methylation of the imprinted IGF2/H19 locus in: i) a cohort of individuals homogeneous for age and gender (males with restricted age range: 30-50 years) belonging to four Italian districts representative of the major genetic clines, informative for the geographical dimension; ii) a cohort of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins of different ages (age-range: 22-97 years), informative for the temporal dimension. DNA methylation of the analyzed regions displayed high levels of inter-individual variability that could not be ascribed to any geographical cline. In MZ twins we identified two IGF2/H19 regions where the intra-couple variations significantly increased after the age of 60 years. The analysis of twins’ individual life histories suggests that the within twin pairs difference is likely the result of the aging process itself, as sharing a common environment for long periods had no effect on DNA methylation divergence. On the whole, the data here reported suggest that: i) aging more than population genetics is responsible for the inter-individual variability in DNA methylation patterns in humans; ii) DNA methylation variability appears to be highly region-specific.
DNA methylation; IGF2/H19; twins; aging; population epigenetics
It is well known that serum paraoxonase (PON1) plays an important role in the protection of LDL from oxidation. PON1 55 polymorphism is currently investigated for its possible involvement in cardiovascular diseases. The objective of our study is to verify if PON1 55 polymorphism is associated with risk of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and with biochemical myocardial ischemia markers, such as troponin I, creatine kinase (CK)-MB, myoglobin, and C-reactive protein. We analysed PON1 55 polymorphism in a total of 440 elderly patients who underwent an ACS episode: 98 patients affected by unstable angina (UA), 207 AMI (acute myocardial infarction) patients affected by STEMI (ST elevation), and 135 AMI patients affected by NSTEMI (no ST elevation). We found that individuals carrying PON1 55 LL genotype are significantly more represented among AMI patients affected by NSTEMI; moreover, the patients carrying LL genotype showed significantly higher levels of myoglobin in comparison to LM + MM carriers patients. Our study suggests that PON1 55 polymorphism could play a role in the pathogenesis of cardiac ischemic damage. In particular, the significant association between PON1 55 LL genotype and the occurrence of a NSTEMI may contribute to improve the stratification of the cardiovascular risk within a population.
Inflammation is part of a complex physiological response to harmful stimuli and pathogenic stress. The five components of the Nuclear Factor κB (NF-κB) family are prominent mediators of inflammation, acting as key transcriptional regulators of hundreds of genes. Several signaling pathways activated by diverse stimuli converge on NF-κB activation, resulting in a regulatory system characterized by high complexity. It is increasingly recognized that the number of components that impinges upon phenotypic outcomes of signal transduction pathways may be higher than those taken into consideration from canonical pathway representations. Scope of the present analysis is to provide a wider, systemic picture of the NF-κB signaling system. Data from different sources such as literature, functional enrichment web resources, protein-protein interaction and pathway databases have been gathered, curated, integrated and analyzed in order to reconstruct a single, comprehensive picture of the proteins that interact with, and participate to the NF-κB activation system. Such a reconstruction shows that the NF-κB interactome is substantially different in quantity and quality of components with respect to canonical representations. The analysis highlights that several neglected but topologically central proteins may play a role in the activation of NF-κB mediated responses. Moreover the interactome structure fits with the characteristics of a bow tie architecture. This interactome is intended as an open network resource available for further development, refinement and analysis.
Human TP53 gene is characterised by a polymorphism at codon 72 leading to an Arginine-to-Proline (R/P) substitution. The two resulting p53 isoforms have a different subcellular localisation after stress (more nuclear or more mitochondrial for the P or R isoform, respectively). p53P72 variant is more efficient than p53R72 in inducing the expression of genes involved in nuclear DNA repair. Since p53 is involved also in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance, we wondered whether these p53 isoforms are associated with different accumulation of mtDNA damage. We observed that cells bearing p53R72 accumulate lower amount of mtDNA damage upon rotenone stress with respect to cells bearing p53P72, and that p53R72 co-localises with polymerase gamma more than p53P72. We also analysed the in vivo accumulation of heteroplasmy in a 300 bp fragment of mtDNA D-loop of 425 aged subjects. We observed that subjects with heteroplasmy higher than 5% are significantly less than expected in the p53R72/R72 group. On the whole, these data suggest that the polymorphism of TP53 at codon 72 affects the accumulation of mtDNA mutations, likely through the different ability of the two p53 isoforms to bind to polymerase gamma, and may contribute to in vivo accumulation of mtDNA mutations.
p53 codon 72 polymorphism; mitochondrial DNA; polymerase gamma; aging; mtDNA heteroplasmy
The Second International Workshop on CMV & Immunosenescence was held in Cambridge, UK, 2-4th December, 2010. The presentations covered four separate sessions: cytomegalovirus and T cell phenotypes; T cell memory frequency, inflation and immunosenescence; cytomegalovirus in aging, mortality and disease states; and the immunobiology of cytomegalovirus-specific T cells and effects of the virus on vaccination. This commentary summarizes the major findings of these presentations and references subsequently published work from the presenter laboratory where appropriate and draws together major themes that were subsequently discussed along with new areas of interest that were highlighted by this discussion.
In the present work, we analyzed the survival features of six different Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)-stabilized lymphoid cell lines obtained from adult subjects and from subjects of more than 95 years. For the first, we found that lymphoid B cells from centenarians were more resistant to apoptosis induction and displayed a more developed lysosomal compartment, the most critical component of phagic machinery, in comparison with lymphoid B cells from adult subjects. In addition, cells from centenarians were capable of engulfing and digesting other cells, i.e., their siblings (even entire cells), whereas lymphoid cells from “control samples”, i.e., from adults, did not. This behavior was improved by nutrient deprivation but, strikingly, it was unaffected by the autophagy-modulating drug, rapamycin, an autophagy inducer, and 3-methyladenine, an autophagy inhibitor. Transcriptomic analyses indicated that: (1) aspartyl proteases, (2) cell surface molecules such as integrins and cadherins, and (3) some components of cytoskeletal network could contribute to establish this survival phenotype. Also, Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathways such as Wnt signaling pathway, an essential contributor to cell migration and actin cytoskeleton remodeling, appeared as prominent. Although we cannot rule out the possibility that EBV-immortalization could play a role, since we observed this phagic behavior in cells from centenarians but not in those from adults, we hypothesize that it may represent an important survival determinant in cells from centenarians.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-011-9307-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Lymphoid cells; Centenarians; Apoptosis; Cannibalism; Autophagy; Transcriptomic analysis
Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in rare and common forms of type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Additionally, rare mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations have been shown to be causal for T2DM pathogenesis. So far, many studies have investigated the possibility that mtDNA variation might affect the risk of T2DM, however, when found, haplogroup association has been rarely replicated, even in related populations, possibly due to an inadequate level of haplogroup resolution. Effects of mtDNA variation on diabetes complications have also been proposed. However, additional studies evaluating the mitochondrial role on both T2DM and related complications are badly needed. To test the hypothesis of a mitochondrial genome effect on diabetes and its complications, we genotyped the mtDNAs of 466 T2DM patients and 438 controls from a regional population of central Italy (Marche). Based on the most updated mtDNA phylogeny, all 904 samples were classified into 57 different mitochondrial sub-haplogroups, thus reaching an unprecedented level of resolution. We then evaluated whether the susceptibility of developing T2DM or its complications differed among the identified haplogroups, considering also the potential effects of phenotypical and clinical variables. MtDNA backgrounds, even when based on a refined haplogroup classification, do not appear to play a role in developing T2DM despite a possible protective effect for the common European haplogroup H1, which harbors the G3010A transition in the MTRNR2 gene. In contrast, our data indicate that different mitochondrial haplogroups are significantly associated with an increased risk of specific diabetes complications: H (the most frequent European haplogroup) with retinopathy, H3 with neuropathy, U3 with nephropathy, and V with renal failure.
Human beings have been recently reviewed as ‘metaorganisms’ as a result of a close symbiotic relationship with the intestinal microbiota. This assumption imposes a more holistic view of the ageing process where dynamics of the interaction between environment, intestinal microbiota and host must be taken into consideration. Age-related physiological changes in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as modification in lifestyle, nutritional behaviour, and functionality of the host immune system, inevitably affect the gut microbial ecosystem. Here we review the current knowledge of the changes occurring in the gut microbiota of old people, especially in the light of the most recent applications of the modern molecular characterisation techniques. The hypothetical involvement of the age-related gut microbiota unbalances in the inflamm-aging, and immunosenescence processes will also be discussed. Increasing evidence of the importance of the gut microbiota homeostasis for the host health has led to the consideration of medical/nutritional applications of this knowledge through the development of probiotic and prebiotic preparations specific for the aged population. The results of the few intervention trials reporting the use of pro/prebiotics in clinical conditions typical of the elderly will be critically reviewed.
Ageing; Intestinal microbiota; Probiotics; Prebiotics
The analysis of Inter-Alu PCR patterns obtained from human genomic DNA samples is a promising technique for a simultaneous analysis of many genomic loci flanked by Alu repetitive sequences in order to detect the presence of genetic polymorphisms. Inter-Alu PCR products may be separated and analyzed by capillary electrophoresis using an automatic sequencer that generates a complex pattern of peaks. We propose an algorithmic method based on the Haar-Walsh Wavelet Packet Transformation (WPT) for an efficient detection of fingerprint-type patterns generated by PCR-based methodologies. We have tested our algorithmic approach on inter-Alu patterns obtained from the genomic DNA of three couples of monozygotic twins, expecting that the inter-Alu patterns of each twins couple will show differences due to unavoidable experimental variability. On the contrary the differences among samples of different twins are supposed to originate from genetic variability. Our goal is to automatically detect regions in the inter-Alu pattern likely associated to the presence of genetic polymorphisms.
We show that the WPT algorithm provides a reliable tool to identify sample to sample differences in complex peak patterns, reducing the possible errors and limits associated to a subjective evaluation. The redundant decomposition of the WPT algorithm allows for a procedure of best basis selection which maximizes the pattern differences at the lowest possible scale. Our analysis points out few classifying signal regions that could indicate the presence of possible genetic polymorphisms.
The WPT algorithm based on the Haar-Walsh wavelet is an efficient tool for a non-supervised pattern classification of inter-ALU signals provided by a genetic analyzer, even if it was not possible to estimate the power and false positive rate due to the lacking of a suitable data base. The identification of non-reproducible peaks is usually accomplished comparing different experimental replicates of each sample. Moreover, we remark that, albeit we developed and optimized an algorithm able to analyze patterns obtained through inter-Alu PCR, the method is theoretically applicable to whatever fingerprint-type pattern obtained analyzing anonymous DNA fragments through capillary electrophoresis, and it could be usefully applied on a wide range of fingerprint-type methodologies.
Tissue specific somatic mutations occurring in the mtDNA control region have been proposed to provide a survival advantage. Data on twins and on relatives of long-lived subjects suggested that the occurrence/accumulation of these mutations may be genetically influenced. To further investigate control region somatic heteroplasmy in the elderly, we analyzed the segment surrounding the nt 150 position (previously reported as specific of Leukocytes) in various types of leukocytes obtained from 195 ultra-nonagenarians sib-pairs of Italian or Finnish origin collected in the frame of the GEHA Project. We found a significant correlation of the mtDNA control region heteroplasmy between sibs, confirming a genetic influence on this phenomenon. Furthermore, many subjects showed heteroplasmy due to mutations different from the C150T transition. In these cases heteroplasmy was correlated within sibpairs in Finnish and northern Italian samples, but not in southern Italians. This suggested that the genetic contribution to control region mutations may be population specific. Finally, we observed a possible correlation between heteroplasmy and Hand Grip strength, one of the best markers of physical performance and of mortality risk in the elderly. Our study provides new evidence on the relevance of mtDNA somatic mutations in aging and longevity and confirms that the occurrence of specific point mutations in the mtDNA control region may represent a strategy for the age-related remodelling of organismal functions.
In a systems biology perspective, protein-protein interactions (PPI) are encoded in machine-readable formats to avoid issues encountered in their retrieval for the reconstruction of comprehensive interaction maps and biological pathways. However, the information stored in electronic formats currently used doesn't allow a valid automatic reconstruction of biological pathways.
We propose a logical model of PPI that takes into account the "state" of proteins before and after the interaction. This information is necessary for proper reconstruction of the pathway.
The adoption of the proposed model, which can be easily integrated into existing machine-readable formats used to store the PPI data, would facilitate the automatic or semi-automated reconstruction of biological pathways.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Wen-Yu Chung (nominated by Kateryna Makova), Dr. Carl Herrmann (nominated by Dr. Purificación López-García) and Dr. Arcady Mushegian.
Recently, the network paradigm, an application of graph theory to biology, has proven to be a powerful approach to gaining insights into biological complexity, and has catalyzed the advancement of systems biology. In this perspective and focusing on the immune system, we propose here a more comprehensive view to go beyond the concept of network. We start from the concept of degeneracy, one of the most prominent characteristic of biological complexity, defined as the ability of structurally different elements to perform the same function, and we show that degeneracy is highly intertwined with another recently-proposed organizational principle, i.e. 'bow tie architecture'. The simultaneous consideration of concepts such as degeneracy, bow tie architecture and network results in a powerful new interpretative tool that takes into account the constructive role of noise (stochastic fluctuations) and is able to grasp the major characteristics of biological complexity, i.e. the capacity to turn an apparently chaotic and highly dynamic set of signals into functional information.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia among senile subjects. It has been proposed that AD can be caused by defects in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Given the fundamental contribution of the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) for the respiratory chain, there have been a number of studies investigating the association between mtDNA inherited variants and multifactorial diseases, however no general consensus has been reached yet on the correlation between mtDNA haplogroups and AD.
We applied for the first time a high resolution analysis (sequencing of displacement loop and restriction analysis of specific markers in the coding region of mtDNA) to investigate the possible association between mtDNA-inherited sequence variation and AD in 936 AD patients and 776 cognitively assessed normal controls from central and northern Italy. Among over 40 mtDNA sub-haplogroups analysed, we found that sub-haplogroup H5 is a risk factor for AD (OR = 1.85, 95% CI:1.04–3.23) in particular for females (OR = 2.19, 95% CI:1.06–4.51) and independently from the APOE genotype. Multivariate logistic regression revealed an interaction between H5 and age. When the whole sample is considered, the H5a subgroup of molecules, harboring the 4336 transition in the tRNAGln gene, already associated to AD in early studies, was about threefold more represented in AD patients than in controls (2.0% vs 0.8%; p = 0.031), and it might account for the increased frequency of H5 in AD patients (4.2% vs 2.3%). The complete re-sequencing of the 56 mtDNAs belonging to H5 revealed that AD patients showed a trend towards a higher number (p = 0.052) of sporadic mutations in tRNA and rRNA genes when compared with controls.
Our results indicate that high resolution analysis of inherited mtDNA sequence variation can help in identifying both ancient polymorphisms defining sub-haplogroups and the accumulation of sporadic mutations associated with complex traits such as AD.
A consistent debate is ongoing on genome-wide association studies (GWAs). A key point is the capability to identify low-penetrance variations across the human genome. Among the phenomena reducing the power of these analyses, phenocopy level (PE) hampers very seriously the investigation of complex diseases, as well known in neurological disorders, cancer, and likely of primary importance in human ageing. PE seems to be the norm, rather than the exception, especially when considering the role of epigenetics and environmental factors towards phenotype. Despite some attempts, no recognized solution has been proposed, particularly to estimate the effects of phenocopies on the study planning or its analysis design. We present a simulation, where we attempt to define more precisely how phenocopy impacts on different analytical methods under different scenarios. With our approach the critical role of phenocopy emerges, and the more the PE level increases the more the initial difficulty in detecting gene-gene interactions is amplified. In particular, our results show that strong main effects are not hampered by the presence of an increasing amount of phenocopy in the study sample, despite progressively reducing the significance of the association, if the study is sufficiently powered. On the opposite, when purely epistatic effects are simulated, the capability of identifying the association depends on several parameters, such as the strength of the interaction between the polymorphic variants, the penetrance of the polymorphism and the alleles (minor or major) which produce the combined effect and their frequency in the population. We conclude that the neglect of the possible presence of phenocopies in complex traits heavily affects the analysis of their genetic data.
Age-related physiological changes in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as modifications in lifestyle, nutritional behaviour, and functionality of the host immune system, inevitably affect the gut microbiota, resulting in a greater susceptibility to infections.
By using the Human Intestinal Tract Chip (HITChip) and quantitative PCR of 16S rRNA genes of Bacteria and Archaea, we explored the age-related differences in the gut microbiota composition among young adults, elderly, and centenarians, i.e subjects who reached the extreme limits of the human lifespan, living for over 100 years. We observed that the microbial composition and diversity of the gut ecosystem of young adults and seventy-years old people is highly similar but differs significantly from that of the centenarians. After 100 years of symbiotic association with the human host, the microbiota is characterized by a rearrangement in the Firmicutes population and an enrichment in facultative anaerobes, notably pathobionts. The presence of such a compromised microbiota in the centenarians is associated with an increased inflammatory status, also known as inflammageing, as determined by a range of peripheral blood inflammatory markers. This may be explained by a remodelling of the centenarians' microbiota, with a marked decrease in Faecalibacterium prauznitzii and relatives, symbiotic species with reported anti-inflammatory properties. As signature bacteria of the long life we identified specifically Eubacterium limosum and relatives that were more than ten-fold increased in the centenarians.
We provide evidence for the fact that the ageing process deeply affects the structure of the human gut microbiota, as well as its homeostasis with the host's immune system. Because of its crucial role in the host physiology and health status, age-related differences in the gut microbiota composition may be related to the progression of diseases and frailty in the elderly population.