Age-related physiological, biochemical and functional changes in mammalian skeletal muscle have been shown to begin at the mid-point of the lifespan. However, the underlying changes in DNA methylation that occur during this turning point of the muscle aging process have not been clarified. To explore age-related genomic methylation changes in skeletal muscle, we employed young (0.5 years old) and middle-aged (7 years old) pigs as models to survey genome-wide DNA methylation in the longissimus dorsi muscle using a methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing approach.
We observed a tendency toward a global loss of DNA methylation in the gene-body region of the skeletal muscle of the middle-aged pigs compared with the young group. We determined the genome-wide gene expression pattern in the longissimus dorsi muscle using microarray analysis and performed a correlation analysis using DMR (differentially methylated region)-mRNA pairs, and we found a significant negative correlation between the changes in methylation levels within gene bodies and gene expression. Furthermore, we identified numerous genes that show age-related methylation changes that are potentially involved in the aging process. The methylation status of these genes was confirmed using bisulfite sequencing PCR. The genes that exhibited a hypomethylated gene body in middle-aged pigs were over-represented in various proteolysis and protein catabolic processes, suggesting an important role for these genes in age-related muscle atrophy. In addition, genes associated with tumorigenesis exhibited aged-related differences in methylation and expression levels, suggesting an increased risk of disease associated with increased age.
This study provides a comprehensive analysis of genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in aging pig skeletal muscle. Our findings will serve as a valuable resource in aging studies, promoting the pig as a model organism for human aging research and accelerating the development of comparative animal models in aging research.