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Epigenetic clock and methylation studies in the rhesus macaque.

Abstract

Methylation levels at specific CpG positions in the genome have been used to develop accurate estimators of chronological age in humans, mice, and other species. Although epigenetic clocks are generally species-specific, the principles underpinning them appear to be conserved at least across the mammalian class. This is exemplified by the successful development of epigenetic clocks for mice and several other mammalian species. Here, we describe epigenetic clocks for the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), the most widely used nonhuman primate in biological research. Using a custom methylation array (HorvathMammalMethylChip40), we profiled n = 281 tissue samples (blood, skin, adipose, kidney, liver, lung, muscle, and cerebral cortex). From these data, we generated five epigenetic clocks for macaques. These clocks differ with regard to applicability to different tissue types (pan-tissue, blood, skin), species (macaque only or both humans and macaques), and measure of age (chronological age versus relative age). Additionally, the age-based human-macaque clock exhibits a high age correlation (R = 0.89) with the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus), another Old World species. Four CpGs within the KLF14 promoter were consistently altered with age in four tissues (adipose, blood, cerebral cortex, skin). Future studies will be needed to evaluate whether these epigenetic clocks predict age-related conditions in the rhesus macaque.

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