Results: Our analysis reveals that the expression levels of most genes are generally preserved in B cell precursors isolated from aged compared with young mice. Nonetheless, age-specific expression changes are observed at numerous genes, including microRNA encoding genes. Importantly, these changes are underpinned by multi-layered alterations in chromatin structure, including chromatin accessibility, histone modifications, long-range promoter interactions, and nuclear compartmentalization. Previous work has shown that differentiation is linked to changes in promoter-regulatory element interactions. We find that aging in B cell precursors is accompanied by rewiring of such interactions. We identify transcriptional downregulation of components of the insulin-like growth factor signaling pathway, in particular downregulation of Irs1 and upregulation of Let-7 microRNA expression, as a signature of the aged phenotype. These changes in expression are associated with specific alterations in H3K27me3 occupancy, suggesting that Polycomb-mediated repression plays a role in precursor B cell aging.
Conclusions: Changes in chromatin and 3D genome organization play an important role in shaping the altered gene expression profile of aged precursor B cells. Components of the insulin-like growth factor signaling pathways are key targets of epigenetic regulation in aging in bone marrow B cell precursors.