Knowledge on age-related miRNA changes in healthy individuals and their interaction with mRNAs is lacking. We studied age-related mRNA and miRNA expression changes and their interactions in normal airways. RNA and small RNA sequencing was performed on bronchial biopsies of 86 healthy individuals (age: 18-73) to determine age-related expression changes. Per age-related miRNA we determined the enrichment of age-related predicted targets and their correlation. We identified 285 age-related genes and 27 age-related miRNAs. Pathway enrichment showed that genes higher expressed with age were involved in synapse-related processes. Genes lower expressed with age were involved in cell cycle regulation, the immune system and DNA damage/repair. MiR-146a-5p, miR-146b-5p and miR-142-5p were lower expressed with increasing age and we found a significant enrichment for predicted targets of these miRNAs among genes that were higher expressed with age. The expression levels of the enriched predicted targets RIMS2 and IGSF1 were negatively correlated with both miR-146a-5p and miR-146b-5p. RIMS2 was present in the enriched process, i.e. positive regulation of synaptic transmission. In conclusion, genes decreased with ageing are involved in several of the ageing hallmarks. Genes higher expressed with ageing were involved in synapse-related processes, of which RIMS2 is potentially regulated by two age-related miRNAs.
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