Maintenance of functional mitochondria is essential to prevent damage leading to aging and diseases. What is more, the research of biomarkers of aging is focusing on better predicting functional capability along the lifetime beyond chronological age. Aim of this study was to identify novel CpG sites the methylation of which might be correlated to the chronological and biological age. We performed methylation analyses of the CpG sites in candidate genes involved in mitochondrial biogenesis, mitophagy, fusion, and fission, all key quality control mechanisms to ensure maintenance of healthy mitochondria and homeostasis during aging, using DNA samples from two independent datasets composed by 381 and 468 differently-aged individuals, respectively. Twelve potential CpG predictors resulted associated with aging in the discovery dataset. Of these, two sites located within RAB32 and RHOT2 genes were replicated in the second dataset. What is more, individuals exhibiting methylation levels of the RAB32 CpG site higher than 10% were observed more prone to disability than people with lower levels.

These results seem to provide the first evidence that epigenetic modifications of genes involved in mitochondrial quality control occur over time according to the aging decline, and may then represent potential biomarkers of both chronological and biological age.