We have previously shown that deviations from the average transcription profile of a group of functionally related genes are not only heritable, but also demonstrate specific patterns associated with age, gender and differentiation, thereby implicating genome-wide nuclear programming as the cause. To determine whether these results could be reproduced, a different micro-array database (obtained from two types of muscle tissue, derived from 81 human donors aged between 16 to 89 years) was studied.
This new database also revealed the existence of age, gender and tissue-specific features in a small group of functionally related genes. In order to further analyze this phenomenon, a method was developed for quantifying the contribution of different factors to the variability in gene expression, and for generating a database limited to residual values reflecting constitutional differences between individuals. These constitutional differences, presumably epigenetic in origin, contribute to about 50% of the observed residual variance which is connected with a network of interrelated changes in gene expression with some genes displaying a decrease or increase in residual variation with age.
Epigenetic variation in gene expression without a clear concomitant relation to gene function appears to be a widespread phenomenon. This variation is connected with interactions between genes, is gender and tissue specific and is related to cellular aging.
This finding, together with the method developed for analysis, might contribute to the elucidation of the role of nuclear programming in differentiation, aging and carcinogenesis
This article was reviewed by Thiago M. Venancio (nominated by Aravind Iyer), Hua Li (nominated by Arcady Mushegian) and Arcady Mushegian and J.P.de Magelhaes (nominated by G. Church).