European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 865–877 | Cite as

A nutrigenomics approach for the study of anti-aging interventions: olive oil phenols and the modulation of gene and microRNA expression profiles in mouse brain

  • Cristina Luceri
  • Elisabetta Bigagli
  • Vanessa Pitozzi
  • Lisa Giovannelli
Original Contribution



Middle-aged C57Bl/6J mice fed for 6 months with extra-virgin olive oil rich in phenols (H-EVOO, phenol dose/day: 6 mg/kg) showed cognitive and motor improvement compared to controls fed the same olive oil deprived of phenolics (L-EVOO). The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether these behavioral modifications were associated with changes in gene and miRNA expression in the brain.


Two brain areas involved in cognitive and motor processes were chosen: cortex and cerebellum. Gene and miRNA profiling were analyzed by microarray and correlated with performance in behavioral tests.


After 6 months, most of the gene expression changes were restricted to the cerebral cortex. The genes modulated by aging were mainly down-regulated, and the treatment with H-EVOO was associated with a significant up-regulation of genes compared to L-EVOO. Among those, we found genes previously associated with synaptic plasticity and with motor and cognitive behavior, such as Notch1, BMPs, NGFR, GLP1R and CRTC3. The agrin pathway was also significantly modulated. miRNAs were mostly up-regulated in old L-EVOO animals compared to young. However, H-EVOO-fed mice cortex displayed miRNA expression profiles similar to those observed in young mice. Sixty-three miRNAs, out of 1203 analyzed, were significantly down-regulated compared to the L-EVOO group; among them, we found miRNAs whose predicted target genes were up-regulated by the treatment, such as mir-484, mir-27, mir-137, mir-30, mir-34 and mir-124.


We are among the first to report that a dietary intervention starting from middle age with food rich in phenols can modulate at the central level the expression of genes and miRNAs involved in neuronal function and synaptic plasticity, along with cognitive, motor and emotional behavior.


Aging brain miRNomics Genomics Phenolic compounds Nutraceuticals 



The authors thank Prof. Sabrina Giglio and Dr. Marilena Pantaleo for technical support for the scanning of microarray images. The present study was financially supported by the University of Florence and by the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. VP at the time of the present experiments was affiliated at the Department of Pharmacology of the University of Florence.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Each author has made substantial contributions to the conception and design of the study or acquisition of data or analysis and interpretation of data, drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content. Each author has seen and approved the contents of the submitted manuscript. The authors declare that they have no personal or financial interests.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 17 kb)
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Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Luceri
    • 1
  • Elisabetta Bigagli
    • 1
  • Vanessa Pitozzi
    • 2
  • Lisa Giovannelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Department of Neuroscience, Psychology, Drug Research and Child Health (NEUROFARBA)University of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Chiesi Pharmaceuticals S.p.A.ParmaItaly

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