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CircRNA accumulation in the aging mouse brain
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Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a newly appreciated class of RNAs expressed across diverse phyla. These enigmatic transcripts are most commonly generated by back-splicing events from exons of protein-coding genes. This results in highly stable RNAs due to the lack of free 5' and 3' ends. CircRNAs are enriched in neural tissues, suggesting that they might have neural functions. Here, we sought to determine whether circRNA accumulation occurs during aging in mice. Total RNA-seq profiling of young (1 month old) and aged (22 month old) cortex, hippocampus and heart samples was performed. This led to the confident detection of 6,791 distinct circRNAs across these samples, including 675 novel circRNAs. Analysis uncovered a strong bias for circRNA upregulation during aging in neural tissues. These age-accumulation trends were verified for individual circRNAs by RT-qPCR and Northern analysis. In contrast, comparison of aged versus young hearts failed to reveal a global trend for circRNA upregulation. Age-accumulation of circRNAs in brain tissues was found to be largely independent from linear RNA expression of host genes. These findings suggest that circRNAs might play biological roles relevant to the aging nervous system.