Gene expression markers of age-related inflammation in two human cohorts

Luke C. Pilling, Roby Joehanes, David Melzer, Lorna W. Harries, William Henley, Josée Dupuis, Honghuang Lin, Marcus Mitchell, Dena Hernandez, Sai Xia Ying, Kathryn L. Lunetta, Emelia J. Benjamin, Andrew Singleton, Daniel Levy, Peter Munson, Joanne M. Murabito, Luigi Ferrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Introduction: Chronically elevated circulating inflammatory markers are common in older persons but mechanisms are unclear. Many blood transcripts (>. 800 genes) are associated with interleukin-6 protein levels (IL6) independent of age. We aimed to identify gene transcripts statistically mediating, as drivers or responders, the increasing levels of IL6 protein in blood at older ages. Methods: Blood derived in-vivo RNA from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS, n=2422, ages 40-92. yrs) and InCHIANTI study (n=694, ages 30-104. yrs), with Affymetrix and Illumina expression arrays respectively (>17,000 genes tested), were tested for statistical mediation of the age-IL6 association using resampling techniques, adjusted for confounders and multiple testing. Results: In FHS, IL6 expression was not associated with IL6 protein levels in blood. 102 genes (0.6% of 17,324 expressed) statistically mediated the age-IL6 association of which 25 replicated in InCHIANTI (including 5 of the 10 largest effect genes). The largest effect gene (SLC4A10, coding for NCBE, a sodium bicarbonate transporter) mediated 19% (adjusted CI 8.9 to 34.1%) and replicated by PCR in InCHIANTI (n=194, 35.6% mediated, p =0.01). Other replicated mediators included PRF1 (perforin, a cytolytic protein in cytotoxic T lymphocytes and NK cells) and IL1B (Interleukin 1 beta): few other cytokines were significant mediators. Conclusions: This transcriptome-wide study on human blood identified a small distinct set of genes that statistically mediate the age-IL6 association. Findings are robust across two cohorts and different expression technologies. Raised IL6 levels may not derive from circulating white cells in age related inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Gerontology
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Blood
  • Epidemiology
  • Human
  • Inflammation
  • Transcriptome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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