Age changes in expression of inflammatory, synaptic, and neurotrophic genes are not well characterized during human brain development and senescence. Knowing these changes may elucidate structural, metabolic, and functional brain processes over the lifespan, as well vulnerability to neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative diseases.
Expression levels of inflammatory, synaptic, and neurotrophic genes in the human brain are coordinated over the lifespan and underlie changes in phenotypic networks or cascades.
We used a large-scale microarray dataset from human prefrontal cortex, BrainCloud, to quantify age changes over the lifespan, divided into Development (0 to 21 years, 87 brains) and Aging (22 to 78 years, 144 brains) intervals, in transcription levels of 39 genes.
Gene expression levels followed different trajectories over the lifespan. Many changes were intercorrelated within three similar groups or clusters of genes during both Development and Aging, despite different roles of the gene products in the two intervals. During Development, changes were related to reported neuronal loss, dendritic growth and pruning, and microglial events; TLR4, IL1R1, NFKB1, MOBP, PLA2G4A, and PTGS2 expression increased in the first years of life, while expression of synaptic genes GAP43 and DBN1 decreased, before reaching plateaus. During Aging, expression was upregulated for potentially pro-inflammatory genes such as NFKB1, TRAF6, TLR4, IL1R1, TSPO, and GFAP, but downregulated for neurotrophic and synaptic integrity genes such as BDNF, NGF, PDGFA, SYN, and DBN1.
Coordinated changes in gene transcription cascades underlie changes in synaptic, neurotrophic, and inflammatory phenotypic networks during brain Development and Aging. Early postnatal expression changes relate to neuronal, glial, and myelin growth and synaptic pruning events, while late Aging is associated with pro-inflammatory and synaptic loss changes. Thus, comparable transcriptional regulatory networks that operate throughout the lifespan underlie different phenotypic processes during Aging compared to Development.