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Cellular senescence can be triggered by the aberrant activation of oncogenes or loss-of-function of tumor suppressor genes, and this type of senescence is known as the oncogene-induced senescence, with RAS signaling-induced senescence being the best studied. Oxidative stress, which may or may not be caused by oncogenic RAS signaling, can also trigger senescence. Finally, the cellular senescence program can be initiated by DNA damage, which may be caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) during oxidative stress, and by telomere shortening caused by replicative exhaustion which may be due to oncogenic signaling. The senescent phenotype was first reported by Hayflick and Moorhead in 1961, when they proposed replicative senescence as a mechanism responsible for the cessation of mitotic activity and morphological changes that occur in human somatic diploid cell strains as a consequence of serial passaging, preventing the continuous culture of untransformed cells-the Hayflick limit (Hayflick and Moorhead 1961).
Secreted proteins that constitute the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), also known as the senescence messaging secretome (SMS), include inflammatory and immune-modulatory cytokines, growth factors, shed cell surface molecules and survival factors. The SASP profile is not significantly affected by the type of senescence trigger or the cell type (Coppe et al. 2008), but the persistent DNA damage may be a deciding SASP initiator (Rodier et al. 2009). SASP components function in an autocrine manner, reinforcing the senescent phenotype (Kuilman et al. 2008, Acosta et al. 2008), and in the paracrine manner, where they may promote epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and malignancy in the nearby premalignant or malignant cells (Coppe et al. 2008).
Senescent cells may remain viable for years, such as senescent melanocytes of moles and nevi, or they can be removed by phagocytic cells. The standard marker for immunohistochemical detection of senescent cells is senescence-associated beta-galactosidase (SA-beta-Gal), a lysosomal enzyme that is not required for senescence.
For reviews of this topic, please refer to Collado et al. 2007, Adams 2009, Kuilman et al. 2010. For a review of differential gene expression between senescent and immortalized cells, please refer to Fridman and Tainsky 2008.
Here, transcriptional regulatory processes that mediate the SASP are annotated. DNA damage triggers ATM-mediated activation of TP53, resulting in the increased level of CDKN1A (p21). CDKN1A-mediated inhibition of CDK2 prevents phosphorylation and inactivation of the Cdh1:APC/C complex, allowing it to ubiquitinate and target for degradation EHMT1 and EHMT2 histone methyltransferases. As EHMT1 and EHMT2 methylate and silence the promoters of IL6 and IL8 genes, degradation of these methyltransferases relieves the inhibition of IL6 and IL8 transcription (Takahashi et al. 2012). In addition, oncogenic RAS signaling activates the CEBPB (C/EBP-beta) transcription factor (Nakajima et al. 1993, Lee et al. 2010), which binds promoters of IL6 and IL8 genes and stimulates their transcription (Kuilman et al. 2008, Lee et al. 2010). CEBPB also stimulates the transcription of CDKN2B (p15-INK4B), reinforcing the cell cycle arrest (Kuilman et al. 2008). CEBPB transcription factor has three isoforms, due to three alternative translation start sites. The CEBPB-1 isoform (C/EBP-beta-1) seems to be exclusively involved in growth arrest and senescence, while the CEBPB-2 (C/EBP-beta-2) isoform may promote cellular proliferation (Atwood and Sealy 2010 and 2011). IL6 signaling stimulates the transcription of CEBPB (Niehof et al. 2001), creating a positive feedback loop (Kuilman et al. 2009, Lee et al. 2010). NF-kappa-B transcription factor is also activated in senescence (Chien et al. 2011) through IL1 signaling (Jimi et al. 1996, Hartupee et al. 2008, Orjalo et al. 2009). NF-kappa-B binds IL6 and IL8 promoters and cooperates with CEBPB transcription factor in the induction of IL6 and IL8 transcription (Matsusaka et al. 1993, Acosta et al. 2008). Besides IL6 and IL8, their receptors are also upregulated in senescence (Kuilman et al. 2008, Acosta et al. 2008) and IL6 and IL8 may be master regulators of the SASP.
IGFBP7 is also an SASP component that is upregulated in response to oncogenic RAS-RAF-MAPK signaling and oxidative stress, as its transcription is directly stimulated by the AP-1 (JUN:FOS) transcription factor. IGFBP7 negatively regulates RAS-RAF (BRAF)-MAPK signaling and is important for the establishment of senescence in melanocytes (Wajapeyee et al. 2008).
Please refer to Young and Narita 2009 for a recent review.