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Keywords:

  • aging;
  • gene expression;
  • social stress

Summary

Chronic social stress is a predictor of both aging-related disease and mortality risk. Hence, chronic stress has been hypothesized to directly exacerbate the process of physiological aging. Here, we evaluated this hypothesis at the level of gene regulation. We compared two data sets of genome-wide gene expression levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs): one that captured aging effects and another that focused on chronic social stress. Overall, we found that the direction, although not necessarily the magnitude, of significant gene expression changes tends to be shared between the two data sets. This overlap was observable at three levels: (i) individual genes; (ii) general functional categories of genes; and (iii) molecular pathways implicated in aging. However, we also found evidence that heterogeneity in PBMC composition limits the power to detect more extensive similarities, suggesting that our findings reflect an underestimate of the degree to which age and social stress influence gene regulation in parallel. Cell type-specific data on gene regulation will be important to overcome this limitation in the future studies.