Analysis of alternative splicing associated with aging and neurodegeneration in the human brain


Age is the most important risk factor for neurodegeneration; however, the effects of aging and neurodegeneration on gene expression in the human brain have most often been studied separately. Here, we analyzed changes in transcript levels and alternative splicing in the temporal cortex of individuals of different ages who were cognitively normal, affected by frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), or affected by Alzheimer's disease (AD). We identified age-related splicing changes in cognitively normal individuals and found that these were present also in 95% of individuals with FTLD or AD, independent of their age. These changes were consistent with increased polypyrimidine tract binding protein (PTB)-dependent splicing activity. We also identified disease-specific splicing changes that were present in individuals with FTLD or AD, but not in cognitively normal individuals. These changes were consistent with the decreased neuro-oncological ventral antigen (NOVA)-dependent splicing regulation, and the decreased nuclear abundance of NOVA proteins. As expected, a dramatic down-regulation of neuronal genes was associated with disease, whereas a modest down-regulation of glial and neuronal genes was associated with aging. Whereas our data indicated that the age-related splicing changes are regulated independently of transcript-level changes, these two regulatory mechanisms affected expression of genes with similar functions, including metabolism and DNA repair. In conclusion, the alternative splicing changes identified in this study provide a new link between aging and neurodegeneration.

Journal details

Journal Genome Research
Volume 21
Issue number 10
Pages 1572-1582
Publication date


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