Fine structural details of glycans attached to the conserved N-glycosylation site significantly not only affect function of individual immunoglobulin G (IgG) molecules but also mediate inflammation at the systemic level. By analyzing IgG glycosylation in 5,117 individuals from four European populations, we have revealed very complex patterns of changes in IgG glycosylation with age. Several IgG glycans (including FA2B, FA2G2, and FA2BG2) changed considerably with age and the combination of these three glycans can explain up to 58% of variance in chronological age, significantly more than other markers of biological age like telomere lengths. The remaining variance in these glycans strongly correlated with physiological parameters associated with biological age. Thus, IgG glycosylation appears to be closely linked with both chronological and biological ages. Considering the important role of IgG glycans in inflammation, and because the observed changes with age promote inflammation, changes in IgG glycosylation also seem to represent a factor contributing to aging.
© The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.
Glycosylation is the key posttranslational mechanism that regulates function of immunoglobulins, with multiple systemic repercussions to the immune system. Our study of IgG glycosylation in 5,117 individuals from four European populations has revealed very extensive and complex changes in IgG glycosylation with age. The combined index composed of only three glycans explained up to 58% of variance in age, considerably more than other biomarkers of age like telomere lengths. The remaining variance in these glycans strongly correlated with physiological parameters associated with biological age; thus, IgG glycosylation appears to be closely linked with both chronological and biological ages. The ability to measure human biological aging using molecular profiling has practical applications for diverse fields such as disease prevention and treatment, or forensics.