Open Access Open Badges Research article

Age-associated bidirectional modulation of gene expression in single identified R15 neuron of Aplysia

Beena M Kadakkuzha1, Komolitdin Akhmedov1, Tom R Capo3, Anthony C Carvalloza2, Mohammad Fallahi2 and Sathyanarayanan V Puthanveettil1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neuroscience, Scripps Florida, 130 Scripps Way, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA

2 Information Technology and Informatics, The Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Florida, 130 Scripps Way, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA

3 Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:880  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-880

Published: 14 December 2013



Despite the advances in our understanding of aging-associated behavioral decline, relatively little is known about how aging affects neural circuits that regulate specific behaviors, particularly the expression of genes in specific neural circuits during aging. We have addressed this by exploring a peptidergic neuron R15, an identified neuron of the marine snail Aplysia californica. R15 is implicated in reproduction and osmoregulation and responds to neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, serotonin and glutamate and is characterized by its action potential bursts.


We examined changes in gene expression in R15 neurons during aging by microarray analyses of RNAs from two different age groups, mature and old animals. Specifically we find that 1083 ESTs are differentially regulated in mature and old R15 neurons. Bioinformatics analyses of these genes have identified specific biological pathways that are up or downregulated in mature and old neurons. Comparison with human signaling networks using pathway analyses have identified three major networks [(1) cell signaling, cell morphology, and skeletal muscular system development (2) cell death and survival, cellular function maintenance and embryonic development and (3) neurological diseases, developmental and hereditary disorders] altered in old R15 neurons. Furthermore, qPCR analysis of single R15 neurons to quantify expression levels of candidate regulators involved in transcription (CREB1) and translation (S6K) showed that aging is associated with a decrease in expression of these regulators, and similar analysis in three other neurons (L7, L11 and R2) showed that gene expression change during aging could be bidirectional.


We find that aging is associated with bidirectional changes in gene expression. Detailed bioinformatics analyses and human homolog searches have identified specific biological processes and human-relevant signaling pathways in R15 that are affected during aging. Evaluation of gene expression changes in different neurons suggests specific transcriptomic signature of single neurons during aging.

Aplysia californica; Bi-directional gene regulation; Single neuron transcriptome; R15 neuron; Neuronal circuitry; Signaling networks; Aging; CREB; S6 Kinase