Oncogene-induced senescence is triggered by high level of RAS/RAF/MAPK signaling that can be caused, for example, by oncogenic mutations in RAS or RAF proteins, or by oncogenic mutations in growth factor receptors, such as EGFR, that act upstream of RAS/RAF/MAPK cascade. Oncogene-induced senescence can also be triggered by high transcriptional activity of E2F1, E2F2 or E2F3 which can be caused, for example, by the loss-of-function of RB1 tumor suppressor.
Oncogenic signals trigger transcription of CDKN2A locus tumor suppressor genes: p16-INK4A and p14-ARF. p16-INK4A and p14-ARF share exons 2 and 3, but are expressed from different promoters and use different reading frames (Quelle et al. 1995). Therefore, while their mRNAs are homologous and are both translationally inhibited by miR-24 microRNA (Lal et al. 2008, To et al. 2012), they share no similarity at the amino acid sequence level and perform distinct functions in the cell. p16-INK4A acts as the inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases CDK4 and CDK6 which phosphorylate and inhibit RB1 protein thereby promoting G1 to S transition and cell cycle progression (Serrano et al. 1993). Increased p16-INK4A level leads to hypophosphorylation of RB1, allowing RB1 to inhibit transcription of E2F1, E2F2 and E2F3-target genes that are needed for cell cycle progression, which results in cell cycle arrest in G1 phase. p14-ARF binds and destabilizes MDM2 ubiquitin ligase (Zhang et al. 1998), responsible for ubiquitination and degradation of TP53 (p53) tumor suppressor protein (Wu et al. 1993, Fuchs et al. 1998, Fang et al. 2000). Therefore, increased p14-ARF level leads to increased level of TP53 and increased expression of TP53 target genes, such as p21, which triggers p53-mediated cell cycle arrest and, depending on other factors, may also lead to p53-mediated apoptosis. CDKN2B locus, which encodes an inhibitor of CDK4 and CDK6, p15-INK4B, is located in the vicinity of CDKN2A locus, at the chromosome band 9p21. p15-INK4B, together with p16-INK4A, contributes to senescence of human T-lymphocytes (Erickson et al. 1998) and mouse fibroblasts (Malumbres et al. 2000). SMAD3, activated by TGF-beta-1 signaling, controls senescence in the mouse multistage carcinogenesis model through regulation of MYC and p15-INK4B gene expression (Vijayachandra et al. 2003). TGF-beta-induced p15-INK4B expression is also important for the senescence of hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines (Senturk et al. 2010).
MAP kinases MAPK1 (ERK2) and MAPK3 (ERK1), which are activated by RAS signaling, phosphorylate ETS1 and ETS2 transcription factors in the nucleus (Yang et al. 1996, Seidel et al. 2002, Foulds et al. 2004, Nelson et al. 2010). Phosphorylated ETS1 and ETS2 are able to bind RAS response elements (RREs) in the CDKN2A locus and stimulate p16-INK4A transcription (Ohtani et al. 2004). At the same time, activated ERKs (MAPK1 i.e. ERK2 and MAPK3 i.e. ERK1) phosphorylate ERF, the repressor of ETS2 transcription, which leads to translocation of ERF to the cytosol and increased transcription of ETS2 (Sgouras et al. 1995, Le Gallic et al. 2004). ETS2 can be sequestered and inhibited by binding to ID1, resulting in inhibition of p16-INK4A transcription (Ohtani et al. 2004).
Transcription of p14-ARF is stimulated by binding of E2F transcription factors (E2F1, E2F2 or E2F3) in complex with SP1 to p14-ARF promoter (Parisi et al. 2002).
Oncogenic RAS signaling affects mitochondrial metabolism through an unknown mechanism, leading to increased generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which triggers oxidative stress induced senescence pathway. In addition, increased rate of cell division that is one of the consequences of oncogenic signaling, leads to telomere shortening which acts as another senescence trigger.