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  Pharmaceutical Patents  

 

Title:  Signatures for human aging
United States Patent: 
7,908,090
Issued: 
March 15, 2011

Inventors:
 Kim; Stuart K. (Stanford, CA), Zahn; Jacob M. (Mountain View, CA), Rodwell; Graham (Tucson, AZ), Owen; Art B. (Menlo Park, CA)
Assignee:
  The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University (Palo Alto, CA)
Appl. No.:
 11/605,859
Filed:
 November 28, 2006


 

George Washington University's Healthcare MBA


Abstract

Age and related conditions are assessed with a gene expression test that determines the expression levels of a panel of genetic markers. Each age signature contains expression information for genes in at least one functional group that is identified herein as having an expression pattern that correlates with physiological aging of a tissue or tissue of interest.

Description of the Invention

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Sets of genes that provide for human age signatures are identified herein. Each set comprises genes from at least one functional group having an expression pattern that correlates with physiological aging of a tissue or tissue of interest. Physiological aging reflects the physical state of the tissue, and can vary from chronological age. The expression pattern of one or a panel of genes in a functional group is assessed, e.g. by mRNA expression, protein levels, etc., and the resulting dataset provides the age signature.

In one embodiment, the expression pattern of genes in at least one age associated functional group is used to generate a common signature for aging, where the expression pattern is associated with aging across multiple human tissues. Functional groups of the human common signature for aging include the cytosolic ribosome pathway, which increases expression with age; components of the extracellular matrix, which increase expression with age; and the electron transport chain pathway, which decreases expression with age. Tissues for analysis of the common signature can include, without limitation, muscle tissue, brain tissue, and kidney tissue. In other embodiments, the tissue for analysis is other than kidney tissue or brain tissue.

In another embodiment, the expression pattern of genes in at least one identified functional group is used to generate a signature for muscle aging. In addition to the functional groups of the human common signature for aging, functional groups of the human signature for muscle aging include the mRNA splicing and processing pathway, which increases expression with age; and the calcium ion transport pathway, which decreases with age in human muscle.

In another embodiment, the expression pattern of genes in at least one functional group is used to generate a signature for kidney aging. In addition to the functional groups of the human common signature for aging, functional groups of the human signature for kidney aging include maintenance of epithelial polarity, which generally increase expression with aging; ribosomal proteins, which increase expression with aging; and specific transcription factors and signaling pathway components.

In one embodiment of the invention, analysis of the signature for aging in a sample is used in a method of diagnosing physiological age in an individual, or in a tissue. Knowledge of physiological age is useful in providing appropriate medical treatment and prevention, as many diseases are associated with physiological aging. The analysis is also useful in diagnosing the physiological age of tissues, e.g. to evaluate the suitability of organs for transplantation.

Methods of analysis may include, without limitation, establishing a training dataset, and comparing an unknown sample to the training dataset as test datasets, i.e. human age signatures. A training dataset may comprise, without limitation, expression analysis from cells known to be physiologically aged; cells from a non-aged source; cells of defined ages; and the like. The human age signature includes quantitative measure of a panel of expression products from one or more sets of genes, as described above. Expression products include mRNA and the encoded polypeptides. Other methods may utilize decision tree analysis, classification algorithms, regression analysis, and combinations thereof. Alternatively, simple quantitative measure of expression products from a set of genes may be performed, and compared to a reference to determine differential expression.

In other embodiments, analysis of human age signatures is used in a method of screening biologically active agents for efficacy in the treatment of aging. In such methods, cells of interest, e.g. kidney cells, neuronal cells, muscle cells, etc., which may be of a defined age, for example from an elderly cell source, from a non-aged source, etc. are contacted in culture or in vivo with a candidate agent, and the effect on expression of one or more of the markers, particularly a panel of markers, is determined. In another embodiment, analysis of differential expression is used in a method of following therapeutic regimens in patients. In a single time point or a time course, measurements of expression of one or more of the markers, e.g. a panel of markers, is determined when a patient has been exposed to a therapy, which may include a drug, combination of drugs, non-pharmacologic intervention, and the like.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

Age and related conditions are assessed with a gene expression test that determines the expression levels of a panel of genetic markers that provide for a human age signature. Each age signature contains expression information for genes in at least one functional group that is identified herein as having an expression pattern that correlates with physiological aging of a tissue or tissue of interest.

The human age signature provides diagnostic and prognostic methods, by detecting characteristic aging related changes in expression of the indicated genes. The physiological age of an individual, organ, tissue, cell, etc. can be assessed by determining the human age signature. The methods also include screening for efficacy of therapeutic agents and methods; and the like. Early detection can be used to determine the probability of developing certain diseases, thereby allowing for intervention with appropriate preventive or protective measures.

Various techniques and reagents find use in the diagnostic methods of the present invention. In one embodiment of the invention, a tissue or cell samples, or samples derived from such tissues and cells are assayed for the presence of mRNA and/or polypeptides. Expression signatures typically utilize a detection method coupled with analysis of the results to determine if there is a statistically significant match with an age signature.

Chronological Age. The rate of aging is very species specific, where a human may be aged at about 50 years; and a rodent at about 2 years. In general terms, a natural progressive decline in body systems starts in early adulthood, but it becomes most evident several decades later. One arbitrary way to define old age more precisely in humans is to say that it begins at conventional retirement age, around about 60, around about 65 years of age. Another definition sets parameters for aging coincident with the loss of reproductive ability, which is around about age 45, more usually around about 50 in humans, but will, however, vary with the individual.

Physiological age. It has been found that individuals age at different rates, even within a species. Therefore chronological age may be at best imprecise and even misleading as to the extent of decline in function. It is therefore useful to use the methods of the present invention and to evaluate the physiological age of an individual, organ, tissue, cell, etc., rather than the chronological age. In addition to the patterns of gene expression reported herein, there are a number of indicia of physiological aging that are tissue specific.

For example, in muscle tissue, the diameters of the Type I and Type II muscle fibers correlate with physiological age. In kidney tissue, there is a general decline in the morphological appearance of the kidney with age, including a loss of glomerular structure and replacement of capillaries with fibrous tissue; collapse and atrophy of tubules; and thickening of the innermost layer of the arteriole wall due to the accumulation of hyaline material.

In some embodiments, a chronicity index is determined, which index is a quantitative estimate of the morphological appearance and physiological state of the tissue based on such criteria as discussed above.

Human age signature. Human age signatures, e.g. common signature for aging;

signature for kidney aging; and signature for muscle aging; comprise a dataset of expression information for genes identified herein as being correlated with physiological age. The term expression profile is used broadly to include a gene expression profile, e.g., an expression profile of mRNAs, or a proteomic expression profile, e.g., an expression profile of one or more different proteins. Profiles may be generated by any convenient means for quantitation, e.g. quantitative hybridization of mRNA, labeled mRNA, amplified mRNA, cRNA, etc., quantitative PCR, ELISA for protein quantitation, antibody arrays, and the like.

Each age signature will include expression information from at least one functional group for the age signature of interest and may include information from two or three functional groups, e.g. the common age signature in cytosolic ribosome pathway, (increases expression with age); components of the extracellular matrix (increases expression with age); electron transport chain pathway, (decreases expression with age). Functional groups specific for muscle aging include mRNA splicing and processing pathway, (increases expression with age); and the calcium ion transport pathway, (decreases with age). Functional groups specific for the human signature for kidney aging include maintenance of epithelial polarity, (increase expression with aging); and specific transcription factors and signaling pathway components.

Within a functional group, quantitative information is obtained from a sufficient number of genes to provide statistically significant information. Usually expression information from at least about 5 genes in a group is obtained, and the signature may include expression information from about 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or more genes. In some embodiments the genes are selected based on significance rank (as shown in Table 1 (see Original Patent), for example), where the highest ranking 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or more sequences are selected.

The expression profile may be generated from a biological sample using any convenient protocol. Samples can be obtained from the tissues or fluids of an individual, as well as from organs, tissues, cell cultures or tissue homogenates, etc. For example, samples can be obtained from whole blood, tissue biopsy, serum, etc. Also included in the term are derivatives and fractions of such cells and fluids. Where cells are analyzed, the number of cells in a sample can be at least about 10.sup.2, at least 10.sup.3, and may be about 10.sup.4 or more. The cells may be dissociated, in the case of solid tissues, or tissue sections may be analyzed. Alternatively a lysate of the cells may be prepared.

Following obtainment of the expression profile from the sample being assayed, the expression profile is compared with a reference or control profile to make a assessment regarding the physiological age of the cell or tissue from which the sample was obtained/derived. Typically a comparison is made with a signature from a sample of known physiological age, e.g. an aged sample, a young sample, and the like. Usually for diagnostic or prognostic methods, a determined value or test value is statistically compared against a reference or baseline value.

In certain embodiments, the obtained signature is compared to a single reference/control profile to obtain information regarding the phenotype of the cell/tissue being assayed. In other embodiments, the obtained signature is compared to two or more different reference/control profiles to obtain more in depth information regarding the phenotype of the assayed cell/tissue. For example, the obtained expression profile may be compared to a positive and negative reference profile to obtain confirmed information regarding whether the cell/tissue has the phenotype of interest.

The difference values, i.e. the difference in expression with age, may be performed using any convenient methodology, where a variety of methodologies are known to those of skill in the array art, e.g., by comparing digital images of the expression profiles, by comparing databases of expression data, etc. Patents describing ways of comparing expression profiles include, but are not limited to, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,308,170 and 6,228,575, the disclosures of which are herein incorporated by reference. Methods of comparing expression profiles are also described above. A statistical analysis step is then performed to obtain the weighted contribution of the set of predictive genes.

Diagnostic Algorithms. An algorithm that combines the results of multiple expression level determinations that will discriminate robustly between aged and non-aged tissues or cells, and controls for confounding variables and evaluating potential interactions is used for diagnostic purposes.

In such an algorithm, an age dataset is obtained. The dataset comprises quantitative data for a human age signature as described above.

In order to identify profiles that are indicative of a sample age, a statistical test will provide a confidence level for a change in the biomarkers between the test and control profiles to be considered significant. The raw data may be initially analyzed by measuring the values for each marker, usually in triplicate or in multiple triplicates.

A test dataset is considered to be different than the normal control if at least one, usually at least five, at least ten, at least 15, 20, 25 or more of the parameter values of the profile exceeds the limits that correspond to a predefined level of significance.

To provide significance ordering, the false discovery rate (FDR) may be determined. First, a set of null distributions of dissimilarity values is generated. In one embodiment, the values of observed profiles are permuted to create a sequence of distributions of correlation coefficients obtained out of chance, thereby creating an appropriate set of null distributions of correlation coefficients (see Tusher et al. (2001) PNAS 98, 5116-21, herein incorporated by reference). The set of null distribution is obtained by: permuting the values of each profile for all available profiles; calculating the pair-wise correlation coefficients for all profile; calculating the probability density function of the correlation coefficients for this permutation; and repeating the procedure for N times, where N is a large number, usually 300. Using the N distributions, one calculates an appropriate measure (mean, median, etc.) of the count of correlation coefficient values that their values exceed the value (of similarity) that is obtained from the distribution of experimentally observed similarity values at given significance level.

The FDR is the ratio of the number of the expected falsely significant correlations (estimated from the correlations greater than this selected Pearson correlation in the set of randomized data) to the number of correlations greater than this selected Pearson correlation in the empirical data (significant correlations). This cut-off correlation value may be applied to the correlations between experimental profiles.

Using the aforementioned distribution, a level of confidence is chosen for significance. This is used to determine the lowest value of the correlation coefficient that exceeds the result that would have obtained by chance. Using this method, one obtains thresholds for positive correlation, negative correlation or both. Using this threshold(s), the user can filter the observed values of the pairwise correlation coefficients and eliminate those that do not exceed the threshold(s). Furthermore, an estimate of the false positive rate can be obtained for a given threshold. For each of the individual "random correlation" distributions, one can find how many observations fall outside the threshold range. This procedure provides a sequence of counts. The mean and the standard deviation of the sequence provide the average number of potential false positives and its standard deviation.

The data may be subjected to non-supervised hierarchical clustering to reveal relationships among profiles. For example, hierarchical clustering may be performed, where the Pearson correlation is employed as the clustering metric. One approach is to consider a patient age dataset as a "learning sample" in a problem of "supervised learning". CART is a standard in applications to medicine (Singer (1999) Recursive Partitioning in the Health Sciences, Springer), which may be modified by transforming any qualitative features to quantitative features; sorting them by attained significance levels, evaluated by sample reuse methods for Hotelling's T2 statistic; and suitable application of the lasso method. Problems in prediction are turned into problems in regression without losing sight of prediction, indeed by making suitable use of the Gini criterion for classification in evaluating the quality of regressions.

This approach has led to what is termed FlexTree (Huang (2004) PNAS 101:10529-10534). FlexTree has performed very well in simulations and when applied to SNP and other forms of data. Software automating FlexTree has been developed. Alternatively LARTree or LART may be used Fortunately, recent efforts have led to the development of such an approach, termed LARTree (or simply LART) Turnbull (2005) Classification Trees with Subset Analysis Selection by the Lasso, Stanford University. The name reflects binary trees, as in CART and FlexTree; the lasso, as has been noted; and the implementation of the lasso through what is termed LARS by Efron et al. (2004) Annals of Statistics 32:407-451. See, also, Huang et al. (2004) Tree-structured supervised learning and the genetics of hypertension. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 101(29):10529-34.

Other methods of analysis that may be used include logic regression. One method of logic regression Ruczinski (2003) Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics 12:475-512. Logic regression resembles CART in that its classifier can be displayed as a binary tree. It is different in that each node has Boolean statements about features that are more general than the simple "and" statements produced by CART.

Another approach is that of nearest shrunken centroids (Tibshirani (2002) PNAS 99:6567-72). The technology is k-means-like, but has the advantage that by shrinking cluster centers, one automatically selects features (as in the lasso) so as to focus attention on small numbers of those that are informative. The approach is available as PAM software and is widely used. Two further sets of algorithms are random forests (Breiman (2001) Machine Learning 45:5-32 and MART (Hastie (2001) The Elements of Statistical Learning, Springer). These two methods are already "committee methods." Thus, they involve predictors that "vote" on outcome.

These statistical tools are applicable to all manner of genetic or proteomic data. A set of biomarker, clinical and/or genetic data that can be easily determined, and that is highly informative regarding assessment of physiological age of individuals or tissues, organs, cells, etc., thereof are provided.

Also provided are databases of expression profiles of age signature. Such databases will typically comprise expression profiles of individuals of specific ages, negative expression profiles, etc., where such profiles are as described above.

The analysis and database storage may be implemented in hardware or software, or a combination of both. In one embodiment of the invention, a machine-readable storage medium is provided, the medium comprising a data storage material encoded with machine readable data which, when using a machine programmed with instructions for using said data, is capable of displaying a any of the datasets and data comparisons of this invention. Such data may be used for a variety of purposes, such as patient monitoring, initial diagnosis, and the like. Preferably, the invention is implemented in computer programs executing on programmable computers, comprising a processor, a data storage system (including volatile and non-volatile memory and/or storage elements), at least one input device, and at least one output device. Program code is applied to input data to perform the functions described above and generate output information. The output information is applied to one or more output devices, in known fashion. The computer may be, for example, a personal computer, microcomputer, or workstation of conventional design.

Each program is preferably implemented in a high level procedural or object oriented programming language to communicate with a computer system. However, the programs can be implemented in assembly or machine language, if desired. In any case, the language may be a compiled or interpreted language. Each such computer program is preferably stored on a storage media or device (e.g., ROM or magnetic diskette) readable by a general or special purpose programmable computer, for configuring and operating the computer when the storage media or device is read by the computer to perform the procedures described herein. The system may also be considered to be implemented as a computer-readable storage medium, configured with a computer program, where the storage medium so configured causes a computer to operate in a specific and predefined manner to perform the functions described herein.

A variety of structural formats for the input and output means can be used to input and output the information in the computer-based systems of the present invention. One format for an output means test datasets possessing varying degrees of similarity to a trusted profile. Such presentation provides a skilled artisan with a ranking of similarities and identifies the degree of similarity contained in the test pattern.

The expression profiles and databases thereof may be provided in a variety of media to facilitate their use. "Media" refers to a manufacture that contains the expression profile information of the present invention. The databases of the present invention can be recorded on computer readable media, e.g. any medium that can be read and accessed directly by a computer. Such media include, but are not limited to: magnetic storage media, such as floppy discs, hard disc storage medium, and magnetic tape; optical storage media such as CD-ROM; electrical storage media such as RAM and ROM; and hybrids of these categories such as magnetic/optical storage media. One of skill in the art can readily appreciate how any of the presently known computer readable mediums can be used to create a manufacture comprising a recording of the present database information. "Recorded" refers to a process for storing information on computer readable medium, using any such methods as known in the art. Any convenient data storage structure may be chosen, based on the means used to access the stored information. A variety of data processor programs and formats can be used for storage, e.g. word processing text file, database format, etc.

Common human signature for aging. In one embodiment, the expression pattern of genes in at least one of the functional groups is used to generate a common signature for aging across multiple human tissues. Functional groups of the human common signature for aging include the cytosolic ribosome pathway, which increases expression with age; components of the extracellular matrix, which increase expression with age; and the electron transport chain pathway, which decreases expression with age. Tissues for analysis of the common signature can include, without limitation, muscle tissue, brain tissue, and kidney tissue. In other embodiments, the tissue for analysis is other than kidney tissue or brain tissue. Genes associated with aging in multiple tissues include those set forth in Table 1 (see Original Patent).

Signature for Human Muscle Age. In another embodiment, the expression pattern of genes in at least one identified functional group is used to generate a signature for muscle aging. In addition to the functional groups of the human common signature for aging, functional groups of the human signature for muscle aging include mRNA splicing and processing pathway, which increases expression with age; and calcium ion transport pathway, which decreases with age in human muscle. Genes associated with aging in muscle tissues include those set forth in Table 2 (see Original Patent).

Signature for Human Muscle Age. In another embodiment, the expression pattern of genes in at least one identified functional group is used to generate a signature for kidney aging. In addition to the functional groups of the human common signature for aging, functional groups of the human signature for kidney aging include maintenance of epithelial polarity, which generally increase expression with aging; ribosomal proteins, which increase expression with aging; and specific transcription factors and signaling pathway components. Genes associated with aging in kidney include those set forth in Table 3 (see Original Patent).

Age-Related Genes (p<0.001) in Kidney, Arranged by Fold-Change

Genes are identified by Affymetrix Probe ID in the first column, and are arranged in order of fold change over a span of 50 years (second column). Gene descriptions are in the third column. All of the Affymetrix data are available at the Stanford Microarray Database and at the Web site, herein specifically incorporated by reference.

Nucleic Acids. The nucleic acid sequences of genes associated with aging find various uses, including the preparation of arrays and other probes for hybridization, for the recombinant production of encoded polypeptides, and the like. The nucleic acids include those having a high degree of sequence similarity or sequence identity to the human genes set forth in Tables 1, 2 and 3 (see Original Patent). Sequence identity can be determined by hybridization under stringent conditions, for example, at 50.degree. C. or higher and 0.1.times.SSC (9 mM NaCl/0.9 mM Na citrate). Hybridization methods and conditions are well known in the art, see, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 5,707,829. Nucleic acids that are substantially identical to the provided nucleic acid sequence, e.g. allelic variants, genetically altered versions of the gene, etc., bind to one of the sequences under stringent hybridization conditions.

Probes specific to the nucleic acid of the invention can be generated using publicly available nucleic acid sequences. The probes are preferably at least about 18 nt, 25 nt, 50 nt or more of the corresponding contiguous sequence of one of the sequences provided in Tables 1-3, and are usually less than about 2, 1, or 0.5 kb in length. Preferably, probes are designed based on a contiguous sequence that remains unmasked following application of a masking program for masking low complexity, e.g. BLASTX. Double or single stranded fragments can be obtained from the DNA sequence by chemically synthesizing oligonucleotides in accordance with conventional methods, by restriction enzyme digestion, by PCR amplification, etc. The probes can be labeled, for example, with a radioactive, biotinylated, or fluorescent tag.

The nucleic acids of the invention can be provided as a linear molecule or within a circular molecule, and can be provided within autonomously replicating molecules (vectors) or within molecules without replication sequences. Expression of the nucleic acids can be regulated by their own or by other regulatory sequences known in the art. The nucleic acids of the invention can be introduced into suitable host cells using a variety of techniques available in the art, such as transferrin polycation-mediated DNA transfer, transfection with naked or encapsulated nucleic acids, liposome-mediated DNA transfer, intracellular transportation of DNA-coated latex beads, protoplast fusion, viral infection, electroporation, gene gun, calcium phosphate-mediated transfection, and the like.

For use in amplification reactions, such as PCR, a pair of primers will be used. The exact composition of the primer sequences is not critical to the invention, but for most applications the primers will hybridize to the subject sequence under stringent conditions, as known in the art. It is preferable to choose a pair of primers that will generate an amplification product of at least about 50 nt, preferably at least about 100 nt. Algorithms for the selection of primer sequences are generally known, and are available in commercial software packages. Amplification primers hybridize to complementary strands of DNA, and will prime towards each other. For hybridization probes, it may be desirable to use nucleic acid analogs, in order to improve the stability and binding affinity. The term "nucleic acid" shall be understood to encompass such analogs.

Polypeptides. Polypeptides encoded by the age associated genes may find uses. Such polypeptides include native forms, derivative, and fragments thereof. Peptides of interest include fragments of at least about 12 contiguous amino acids, more usually at least about 20 contiguous amino acids, and may comprise 30 or more amino acids, up to the provided peptide, and may extend further to comprise other sequences present in, e.g. precursor polypeptides.

The sequence of the polypeptides may be altered in various ways known in the art to generate targeted changes in sequence, e.g. differing by at least one amino acid, and may differ by at least two but not more than about ten amino acids. The sequence changes may be substitutions, insertions or deletions.

Modifications of interest that do not alter primary sequence include chemical derivatization of polypeptides, e.g., acetylation, or carboxylation. Also included are modifications of glycosylation, e.g. those made by modifying the glycosylation patterns of a polypeptide during its synthesis and processing or in further processing steps; e.g. by exposing the polypeptide to enzymes which affect glycosylation, such as mammalian glycosylating or deglycosylating enzymes. Also embraced are sequences that have phosphorylated amino acid residues, e.g. phosphotyrosine, phosphoserine, or phosphothreonine.

Also included in the subject invention are polypeptides that have been modified using ordinary molecular biological techniques and synthetic chemistry so as to improve their resistance to proteolytic degradation or to optimize solubility properties or to render them more suitable as a therapeutic agent. For examples, the backbone of the peptide may be cyclized to enhance stability (see Friedler et al. (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275:23783-23789). Analogs of such polypeptides include those containing residues other than naturally occurring L-amino acids, e.g. D-amino acids or non-naturally occurring synthetic amino acids.

The subject peptides may be prepared by in vitro synthesis, using conventional methods as known in the art. Various commercial synthetic apparatuses are available, for example, automated synthesizers by Applied Biosystems, Inc., Foster City, Calif., Beckman, etc. By using synthesizers, naturally occurring amino acids may be substituted with unnatural amino acids. The particular sequence and the manner of preparation will be determined by convenience, economics, purity required, and the like.

Antibodies. Antibodies specific for the polypeptides of age-associated genes find uses in some embodiments. As used herein, the term "antibodies" includes antibodies of any isotype, fragments of antibodies which retain specific binding to antigen, including, but not limited to, Fab, Fv, scFv, and Fd fragments, chimeric antibodies, humanized antibodies, single-chain antibodies, and fusion proteins comprising an antigen-binding portion of an antibody and a non-antibody protein. The antibodies may be detectably labeled, e.g., with a radioisotope, an enzyme that generates a detectable product, a green fluorescent protein, and the like. The antibodies may be further conjugated to other moieties, such as members of specific binding pairs, e.g., biotin (member of biotin-avidin specific binding pair), and the like. The antibodies may also be bound to a solid support, including, but not limited to, polystyrene plates or beads, and the like.

Antibodies are prepared in accordance with conventional ways, where the expressed polypeptide or protein is used as an immunogen, by itself or conjugated to known immunogenic carriers, e.g. KLH, pre-S HBsAg, other viral or eukaryotic proteins, or the like. Various adjuvants may be employed, with a series of injections, as appropriate. For monoclonal antibodies, after one or more booster injections, the spleen is isolated, the lymphocytes immortalized by cell fusion, and then screened for high affinity antibody binding. The immortalized cells, i.e. hybridomas, producing the desired antibodies may then be expanded. For further description, see Monoclonal Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, Harlow and Lane eds., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., 1988. If desired, the mRNA encoding the heavy and light chains may be isolated and mutagenized by cloning in E. coli, and the heavy and light chains mixed to further enhance the affinity of the antibody. Alternatives to in vivo immunization as a method of raising antibodies include binding to phage display libraries, usually in conjunction with in vitro affinity maturation.

Screening Methods. The sample may be prepared in a number of different ways, as is known in the art, e.g., by mRNA isolation from a cell, where the isolated mRNA is used as is, amplified, employed to prepare cDNA, cRNA, etc., as is known in the differential expression art. The sample is typically prepared from a cell or tissue harvested from a subject to be diagnosed, e.g., via blood drawing, biopsy of tissue, using standard protocols, where cell types or tissues from which such nucleic acids may be generated include any tissue in which the expression pattern of the to be determined phenotype exists. Cells may be cultured prior to analysis.

The expression profile may be generated from the initial nucleic acid sample using any convenient protocol. While a variety of different manners of generating expression profiles are known, such as those employed in the field of differential gene expression analysis, one representative and convenient type of protocol for generating expression profiles is array based gene expression profile generation protocols. Such applications are hybridization assays in which a nucleic acid that displays "probe" nucleic acids for each of the genes to be assayed/profiled in the profile to be generated is employed. In these assays, a sample of target nucleic acids is first prepared from the initial nucleic acid sample being assayed, where preparation may include labeling of the target nucleic acids with a label, e.g., a member of signal producing system. Following target nucleic acid sample preparation, the sample is contacted with the array under hybridization conditions, whereby complexes are formed between target nucleic acids that are complementary to probe sequences attached to the array surface. The presence of hybridized complexes is then detected, either qualitatively or quantitatively.

Specific hybridization technology which may be practiced to generate the expression profiles employed in the subject methods includes the technology described in U.S. Pat. Nos.: 5,143,854; 5,288,644; 5,324,633; 5,432,049; 5,470,710; 5,492,806; 5,503,980; 5,510,270; 5,525,464; 5,547,839; 5,580,732; 5,661,028; 5,800,992; the disclosures of which are herein incorporated by reference; as well as WO 95/21265; WO 96/31622; WO 97/10365; WO 97/27317; EP 373 203; and EP 785 280. In these methods, an array of "probe" nucleic acids that includes a probe for each of the phenotype determinative genes whose expression is being assayed is contacted with target nucleic acids as described above. Contact is carried out under hybridization conditions, e.g., stringent hybridization conditions as described above, and unbound nucleic acid is then removed. The resultant pattern of hybridized nucleic acid provides information regarding expression for each of the genes that have been probed, where the expression information is in terms of whether or not the gene is expressed and, typically, at what level, where the expression data, i.e., expression profile, may be both qualitative and quantitative.

Alternatively, non-array based methods for quantitating the levels of one or more nucleic acids in a sample may be employed, including quantitative PCR, and the like.

Where the expression profile is a protein expression profile, any convenient protein quantitation protocol may be employed, where the levels of one or more proteins in the assayed sample are determined. Representative methods include, but are not limited to; proteomic arrays, flow cytometry, standard immunoassays, etc.

Reagents and Kits. Also provided are reagents and kits thereof for practicing one or more of the above-described methods. The subject reagents and kits thereof may vary greatly. Reagents of interest include reagents specifically designed for use in production of the above described expression profiles of phenotype determinative genes.

One type of such reagent is an array of probe nucleic acids in which the phenotype determinative genes of interest are represented. A variety of different array formats are known in the art, with a wide variety of different probe structures, substrate compositions and attachment technologies. Representative array structures of interest include those described in U.S. Pat. Nos.: 5,143,854; 5,288,644; 5,324,633; 5,432,049; 5,470,710; 5,492,806; 5,503,980; 5,510,270; 5,525,464; 5,547,839; 5,580,732; 5,661,028; 5,800,992; the disclosures of which are herein incorporated by reference; as well as WO 95/21265; WO 96/31622; WO 97/10365; WO 97/27317; EP 373 203; and EP 785 280. In certain embodiments, the number of genes that are represented on the array are at least 10, usually at least 25, and may be at least 50, 100, up to including all of the genes listed, preferably utilizing the top ranked set of genes. The subject arrays may include only those genes that are listed, or they may include additional genes that are not listed. Where the subject arrays include probes for such additional genes, in certain embodiments the number % of additional genes that are represented does not exceed about 50%, usually does not exceed about 25%. In many embodiments where additional genes are included, a great majority of genes in the collection are age associated genes, where by great majority is meant at least about 75%, usually at least about 80% and sometimes at least about 85, 90, 95% or higher, including embodiments where 100% of the genes in the collection are age associated genes.

Another type of reagent that is specifically tailored for generating expression profiles of age associated genes is a collection of gene specific primers that is designed to selectively amplify such genes, for use in quantitative PCR and other quantitation methods. Gene specific primers and methods for using the same are described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,994,076, the disclosure of which is herein incorporated by reference. Of particular interest are collections of gene specific primers that have primers for at least 10 of the genes listed, often a plurality of these genes, e.g., at least 25, and may be 50, 100 or more to include all of the genes listed for a signature of interest. The subject gene specific primer collections may include only those genes that are listed, or they may include primers for additional genes that are not listed. Where the subject arrays include probes for such additional genes, in certain embodiments the number % of additional genes that are represented does not exceed about 50%, usually does not exceed about 25%. In many embodiments where additional genes are included, a great majority of genes in the collection are age associated genes, where by great majority is meant at least about 75%, usually at least about 80% and sometimes at least about 85, 90, 95% or higher, including embodiments where 100% of the genes in the collection are age associated genes.

The kits of the subject invention may include the above described arrays and/or gene specific primer collections. The kits may further include a software package for statistical analysis of one or more phenotypes, and may include a reference database for calculating the probability of susceptibility. The kit may include reagents employed in the various methods, such as primers for generating target nucleic acids, dNTPs and/or rNTPs, which may be either premixed or separate, one or more uniquely labeled dNTPs and/or rNTPs, such as biotinylated or Cy3 or Cy5 tagged dNTPs, gold or silver particles with different scattering spectra, or other post synthesis labeling reagent, such as chemically active derivatives of fluorescent dyes, enzymes, such as reverse transcriptases, DNA polymerases, RNA polymerases, and the like, various buffer mediums, e.g. hybridization and washing buffers, prefabricated probe arrays, labeled probe purification reagents and components, like spin columns, etc., signal generation and detection reagents, e.g. streptavidin-alkaline phosphatase conjugate, chemifluorescent or chemiluminescent substrate, and the like.

In addition to the above components, the subject kits will further include instructions for practicing the subject methods. These instructions may be present in the subject kits in a variety of forms, one or more of which may be present in the kit. One form in which these instructions may be present is as printed information on a suitable medium or substrate, e.g., a piece or pieces of paper on which the information is printed, in the packaging of the kit, in a package insert, etc. Yet another means would be a computer readable medium, e.g., diskette, CD, etc., on which the information has been recorded. Yet another means that may be present is a website address which may be used via the internet to access the information at a removed site. Any convenient means may be present in the kits.

Compound Screening and Analysis of Therapy. The methods of the invention find use in screening tissues, cells, organs, etc. for a determination of physiological age. In such assays, an age signature is determined for the sample of interest, and used to assess the physiological age. The methods of the invention also find use in screening assays for agents that modulate aging. Such methods usually involve contacting cells, e.g. aged cells, with a candidate agent, and determining the change in expression of the markers provided herein in response to said treatment. In some embodiments, the cells are muscle cells, e.g. cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, satellite cells (muscle stem cells); and the like. In other embodiments, the cells are kidney cells, e.g. tubule cells, kidney organ cultures, glomeruli, cortex, and the like. In other embodiments, the cells are other than kidney or brain, e.g. skin cells such as keratinocytes, fibroblasts, epithelial cells, blood cells, e.g. leukocytes, endothelial cells, etc.

In some embodiments, the cells are provided in an in vitro culture environment, for example as a tissue section, primary cell culture, cell line, combination of cells, and the like. In other embodiments, the cells are provided in an in vivo environment, for example an animal model for age in pre-clinical trials, or human subjects in clinical trials and to follow the efficacy of therapeutic regimens. A review of animal models for age may be found at Narayanaswamy et al. (2000) Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology 11:5-17, herein incorporated by reference with respect to the use of various animal models.

Following exposure to the candidate compound, the panel of biomarkers is assessed for expression levels, for example in the absence or presence of the agent; in a time course following administration; in combination with other biologically active agents; in combination with non-pharmacologic therapy; and the like.

The compounds are typically added in solution, or readily soluble form, to the culture or animal. A plurality of assays may be run in parallel with different compound concentrations to obtain a differential response to the various concentrations. As known in the art, determining the effective concentration of a compound typically uses a range of concentrations resulting from 1:10, or other log scale, dilutions. The concentrations may be further refined with a second series of dilutions, if necessary. Typically, one of these concentrations serves as a negative control, i.e. at zero concentration or below the level of detection.

Compounds of interest encompass numerous chemical classes, though typically they are organic molecules. Candidate agents comprise functional groups necessary for structural interaction with proteins, particularly hydrogen bonding, and typically include at least an amine, carbonyl, hydroxyl or carboxyl group, preferably at least two of the functional chemical groups. The candidate agents often comprise cyclical carbon or heterocyclic structures and/or aromatic or polyaromatic structures substituted with one or more of the above functional groups. Candidate agents are also found among biomolecules including peptides, saccharides, fatty acids, steroids, purines, pyrimidines, derivatives, structural analogs or combinations thereof.

Included are pharmacologically active drugs, genetically active molecules, etc. Compounds of interest include chemotherapeutic agents, anti-inflammatory agents, hormones or hormone antagonists, etc.

Compounds and candidate agents are obtained from a wide variety of sources including libraries of synthetic or natural compounds. For example, numerous means are available for random and directed synthesis of a wide variety of organic compounds and biomolecules, including expression of randomized oligonucleotides and oligopeptides. Alternatively, libraries of natural compounds in the form of bacterial, fungal, plant and animal extracts are available or readily produced. Additionally, natural or synthetically produced libraries and compounds are readily modified through conventional chemical, physical and biochemical means, and may be used to produce combinatorial libraries. Known pharmacological agents may be subjected to directed or random chemical modifications, such as acylation, alkylation, esterification, amidification, etc. to produce structural analogs.

Agents that modulate activity of age associated proteins provide a point of therapeutic or prophylactic intervention. Numerous agents are useful in modulating this activity, including agents that directly modulate expression, e.g. expression vectors, antisense specific for the targeted gene; and agents that act on the protein, e.g. specific antibodies and analogs thereof, small organic molecules that block biological activity, etc.

Antisense molecules can be used to down-regulate expression in cells. The antisense reagent may be antisense oligonucleotides (ODN), particularly synthetic ODN having chemical modifications from native nucleic acids, or nucleic acid constructs that express such antisense molecules as RNA. The antisense sequence is complementary to the mRNA of the targeted gene, and inhibits expression of the targeted gene products. Antisense molecules inhibit gene expression through various mechanisms, e.g. by reducing the amount of mRNA available for translation, through activation of RNAse H, or steric hindrance. One or a combination of antisense molecules may be administered, where a combination may comprise multiple different sequences.

Antisense molecules may be produced by expression of all or a part of the target gene sequence in an appropriate vector, where the transcriptional initiation is oriented such that an antisense strand is produced as an RNA molecule. Alternatively, the antisense molecule is a synthetic oligonucleotide. Antisense oligonucleotides will generally be at least about 7, usually at least about 12, more usually at least about 20 nucleotides in length, and not more than about 500, usually not more than about 50, more usually not more than about 35 nucleotides in length, where the length is governed by efficiency of inhibition, specificity, including absence of cross-reactivity, and the like.

Antisense oligonucleotides may be chemically synthesized by methods known in the art (see Wagner et al. (1993) supra. and Milligan et al., supra.) Preferred oligonucleotides are chemically modified from the native phosphodiester structure, in order to increase their intracellular stability and binding affinity. A number of such modifications have been described in the literature, which alter the chemistry of the backbone, sugars or heterocyclic bases.

In one embodiment of the invention, RNAi technology is used. As used herein, RNAi technology refers to a process in which double-stranded RNA is introduced into cells expressing a candidate gene to inhibit expression of the candidate gene, i.e., to "silence" its expression. The dsRNA is selected to have substantial identity with the candidate gene. In general such methods initially involve transcribing a nucleic acids containing all or part of a candidate gene into single- or double-stranded RNA. Sense and anti-sense RNA strands are allowed to anneal under appropriate conditions to form dsRNA. The resulting dsRNA is introduced into cells via various methods. Usually the dsRNA consists of two separate complementary RNA strands. However, in some instances, the dsRNA may be formed by a single strand of RNA that is self-complementary, such that the strand loops back upon itself to form a hairpin loop. Regardless of form, RNA duplex formation can occur inside or outside of a cell.

dsRNA can be prepared according to any of a number of methods that are known in the art, including in vitro and in vivo methods, as well as by synthetic chemistry approaches. Examples of such methods include, but are not limited to, the methods described by Sadher et al. (Biochem. Int. 14:1015, 1987); by Bhattacharyya (Nature 343:484, 1990); and by Livache, et al. (U.S. Pat. No. 5,795,715), each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. Single-stranded RNA can also be produced using a combination of enzymatic and organic synthesis or by total organic synthesis. The use of synthetic chemical methods enable one to introduce desired modified nucleotides or nucleotide analogs into the dsRNA. dsRNA can also be prepared in vivo according to a number of established methods (see, e.g., Sambrook, et al. (1989) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 2nd ed.; Transcription and Translation (B. D. Hames, and S. J. Higgins, Eds., 1984); DNA Cloning, volumes I and II (D. N. Glover, Ed., 1985); and Oligonucleotide Synthesis (M. J. Gait, Ed., 1984, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety).

A number of options can be utilized to deliver the dsRNA into a cell or population of cells. For instance, RNA can be directly introduced intracellularly. Various physical methods are generally utilized in such instances, such as administration by microinjection (see, e.g., Zernicka-Goetz, et al. (1997) Development 124:1133-1137; and Wianny, et al. (1998) Chromosoma 107: 430-439). Other options for cellular delivery include permeabilizing the cell membrane and electroporation in the presence of the dsRNA, liposome-mediated transfection, or transfection using chemicals such as calcium phosphate. A number of established gene therapy techniques can also be utilized to introduce the dsRNA into a cell. By introducing a viral construct within a viral particle, for instance, one can achieve efficient introduction of an expression construct into the cell and transcription of the RNA encoded by the construct.
 

Claim 1 of 2 Claims

1. A method for assessing relative physiological age of a kidney sample from a human subject, the method comprising: determining expression information of a set of at least ten extracellular matrix protein genes associated with kidney aging selected from the group consisting of: TIMP1, TFPI2, TNC, EFEMP1, SPP1, CSPG2, MMP7, MMP13, CTGF, VWF, CHI3L1, THBS2, TGFBI, ADAMTS1, POSTN, COMP, THBS4, ZP2, ECM2, LTBP1, LUM, MGP, BGN, LAMA2, TIMP2, SPARCL1, TIMP4, FBN1, GPC4, LAMA5, MATN3, FLRT3, COL9A3, FBLN1, COL17A1, COL6A3, MATN2, FMOD, THBS1, LTBP2, DGCR6, LAMC1, COL6A2, ADAMTS5, MMRN2, MMP17, KAL1, FLRT2, DAG1, LAMB2, MMP2, GPC6, SOD3, MMP3, DCN, MMP9, MMP20, TNA, DMP1, EMILIN1, COL9A2, MATN1, MMP23B, DPT, ADAMTS2, NTN2L, ADAMTS17, ADAMTS20, ADAMTS15, GPC5, FBLN2, EMILIN2, ADAMTS19, MFAP1, ADAMTS14, TNXB, ADAMTS6, MFAP3, TIMP3, NYX, ADAMTS10, OMD, WNT3, ADAMTS12, LTBP4, MMP15, LAMB3, AMBN, COL14A1, USH2A, ADAMTS7, ADAMTSI3, ADAMTS4, OPTC, RBP3, PRELP, MMPL1, GPC2, MMP27, EMID2, KERA, MEPE, DSPP, GPC3, LAMC3, EMID1, MMP16, AMELX, MMP28, ENAM, NTNG1, MMP24, CHAD, COL9A1, COL6A1, SPG7, HAS1, ASPN, TECTA, NTN1, PI3, MMP25, SPOCK, ECM1, DSPG3, MMP10, GPC1, MMP12, LAMA3, CLECSF1, MMP1, ADAMTS8, ADAMTS9, SPOCK2, ADAMTS3, MMP26, LAMB4, MMP19, HAPLN2, MMP11, FBN2, CD164L1, ELN, FLRT1, NTN4, LOX, ZP4, HAPLN1, MMP8, LAMB1, AGC1, MMP21 from a sample obtained from said subject, and using said expression information to generate an age signature for said sample; comparing said age signature with a control age signature comprising: expression information of said at least ten extracellular matrix protein genes, wherein a statistically significant match with a positive control or a statistically significant difference from a negative control is indicative of relative age in said sample.
 

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