Atypical senescent states: TGFβ-induced senescence and Developmentally programmed senescence

TGFβ-induced senescence: A growing body of evidence suggests that the members of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF- β) family can induce a senescence-like state. Experimentally, senescence has been predominantly, but not exclusively, characterized by the presence of senescence-associated beta galactosidase (SA-β-Gal) staining and the up-regulation of cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKi) (see below). Human prostate basal cells treated with TGF-β1/2/3 show increased SA-β-Gal activity, which is associated with the flattened, and enlarged cell morphology typical of adherent senescent cells in vitro (Untergasser et al. 2003). Similarly TGF-β1 has been reported to induce a senescent state in bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells as a result of increased mitochondria ROS production (Wu et al. 2014). These cells also showed SA-β-Gal staining and an increased expression of p16. Yu et al. (2010) demonstrated that TGF-β2 could induce a senescent-like state in human trabecular meshwork cells. Again, this was associated with SA-β-Gal staining, increased levels of p16 at both the message and protein level and a reduction in the level of pRB protein. No impact on p21 mRNA or protein expression was observed in response to TGF-β2 exposure. Other groups have also reported a role for TGF-β signaling in inducing a senescent state (Senturk et al. 2010, Minagawa et al. 2011, Acosta et al. 2013). 

It is generally accepted that SA-β-Gal staining should be used in conjunction with several other senescent markers, as it does not appear to detect senescent cells specifically (Severino et al, 2000). However, other than the expression of CDKi, it appears that the phenotypes of cells induced to enter senescence by exposure to TGF-βs have been poorly characterized, especially in regard to immunogenic conversion. Some cell types that become senescent via this route may be cleared by the immune system in a manner analogous to those undergoing developmentally programmed senescence. Others may not and this area represents a fruitful field for further investigation.

Developmentally programmed senescence: Cells sharing features of senescence have been reported within the mesonephros and the endolymphatic sac of the inner ear in human and mouse embryos; as well as the neural roof plate and apical ectodermal ridge in rodents (Munoz-Espin et al. 2013, Storer et al. 2013). The authors hypothesize that this “developmental senescence” (DS) is a programmed part of normal embryonic development. DS was demonstrated experimentally by the presence of SA-β-Gal activity and senescence associated heterochromatin (Munoz-Espin et al. 2013). These cells seem to lack detectable DNA damage and appear to have become senescent independent of p53 and p16 and have gene expression patterns that significantly overlap with those of IMR90 fibroblasts in a state of oncogene-induced senescence. Arrest in this instance is dependent instead upon p21, regulated via the TGF-β/SMAD and PI3K/FOXO pathways (thus showing some affinity with other TGF-β induced senescent states). Interestingly, DS cells are removed during normal embryonic development by macrophages in a manner related to immune clearance of senescent cells in the mature organism (or by apoptosis should senescence fail) contributing to the formation of normal tissue architecture. Thus, the long-recognized distinction between programmed cell death in development and apoptosis in the mature organism appears to be mirrored in DS. Given that the expression of p21 in developing embryos is often attributed to ‘terminal differentiation’ (Vasey et al. 2011), it will be interesting to determine how many of these p21 positive cells are senescent cells and have undergone immunogenic conversion.

Taken from: Cellular Senescence: From Growth Arrest to Immunogenic Conversion

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The main focus of ageing research is to prevent/combat age-related disease and disability, allowing everyone to live healthier lives for longer.