Most molecular hallmarks of cellular senescence have been identified in studies of cells aged in vitro by driving them into replicative or stress-induced senescence. Comparatively, less is known about the characteristic features of cells that have aged in vivo. Here we provide a systematic molecular analysis of normal human dermal fibroblasts (NHDFs) that were isolated from intrinsically aged human skin of young versus middle aged versus old donors. Intrinsically aged NHDFs in culture exhibited more frequently nuclear foci positive for p53 binding protein 1 and promyelocytic leukemia protein reminiscent of 'DNA segments with chromatin alterations reinforcing senescence (DNA-SCARS)'. Formation of such foci was neither accompanied by increased DNA double strand breaks, nor decreased cell viability, nor telomere shortening. However, it was associated with the development of a secretory phenotype, indicating incipient cell senescence. By quantitative analysis of the entire secretome present in conditioned cell culture supernatant, combined with a multiplex cytokine determination, we identified 998 proteins secreted by intrinsically aged NHDFs in culture. Seventy of these proteins exhibited an age-dependent secretion pattern and were accordingly denoted 'skin aging-associated secreted proteins (SAASP)'. Systematic comparison of SAASP with the classical senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) revealed that matrix degradation as well as proinflammatory processes are common aspects of both conditions. However, secretion of 27 proteins involved in the biological processes of 'metabolism' and 'adherens junction interactions' was unique for NHDFs isolated from intrinsically aged skin. In conclusion, fibroblasts isolated from intrinsically aged skin exhibit some, but not all, molecular hallmarks of cellular senescence. Most importantly, they secrete a unique pattern of proteins that is distinct from the canonical SASP and might reflect specific processes of skin aging.
Mitochondrial topoisomerase I is a genetically distinct mitochondria-dedicated enzyme with a crucial but so far unknown role in the homeostasis of mitochondrial DNA metabolism. Here, we present data suggesting a negative regulatory function in mitochondrial transcription or transcript stability. Deficiency or depletion of mitochondrial topoisomerase I increased mitochondrial transcripts, whereas overexpression lowered mitochondrial transcripts, depleted respiratory complexes I, III and IV, decreased cell respiration and raised superoxide levels. Acute depletion of mitochondrial topoisomerase I triggered neither a nuclear mito-biogenic stress response nor compensatory topoisomerase IIβ upregulation, suggesting the concomitant increase in mitochondrial transcripts was due to release of a local inhibitory effect. Mitochondrial topoisomerase I was co-immunoprecipitated with mitochondrial RNA polymerase. It selectively accumulated and rapidly exchanged at a subset of nucleoids distinguished by the presence of newly synthesized RNA and/or mitochondrial RNA polymerase. The inactive Y559F-mutant behaved similarly without affecting mitochondrial transcripts. In conclusion, mitochondrial topoisomerase I dampens mitochondrial transcription and thereby alters respiratory capacity. The mechanism involves selective association of the active enzyme with transcriptionally active nucleoids and a direct interaction with mitochondrial RNA polymerase. The inhibitory role of topoisomerase I in mitochondrial transcription is strikingly different from the stimulatory role of topoisomerase I in nuclear transcription.
We analyzed an ex vivo model of in situ aged human dermal fibroblasts, obtained from 15 adult healthy donors from three different age groups using an unbiased quantitative proteome-wide approach applying label-free mass spectrometry. Thereby, we identified 2409 proteins, including 43 proteins with an age-associated abundance change. Most of the differentially abundant proteins have not been described in the context of fibroblasts’ aging before, but the deduced biological processes confirmed known hallmarks of aging and led to a consistent picture of eight biological categories involved in fibroblast aging, namely proteostasis, cell cycle and proliferation, development and differentiation, cell death, cell organization and cytoskeleton, response to stress, cell communication and signal transduction, as well as RNA metabolism and translation. The exhaustive analysis of protein and mRNA data revealed that 77% of the age-associated proteins were not linked to expression changes of the corresponding transcripts. This is in line with an associated miRNA study and led us to the conclusion that most of the age-associated alterations detected at the proteome level are likely caused post-transcriptionally rather than by differential gene expression. In summary, our findings led to the characterization of novel proteins potentially associated with fibroblast aging and revealed that primary cultures of in situ aged fibroblasts are characterized by moderate age-related proteomic changes comprising the multifactorial process of aging.
Topoisomerase II-mediated DNA damage appears related to the prolongation of enzyme DNA residence more than to enzyme-DNA cleavage. Due to this reason, genistein and other tested natural and dietary Topo II poisons have a much lower genotoxic potential than therapeutic ones under the conditions of equal topoisomerase II-DNA linkage.
Autophagy and the circadian clock counteract tissue degeneration and support longevity in many organisms. Accumulating evidence indicates that aging compromises both the circadian clock and autophagy but the mechanisms involved are unknown. Here we show that the expression levels of transcriptional repressor components of the circadian oscillator, most prominently the human Period homologue PER2, are strongly reduced in primary dermal fibroblasts from aged humans, while raising the expression of PER2 in the same cells partially restores diminished autophagy levels. The link between clock gene expression and autophagy is corroborated by the finding that the circadian clock drives cell-autonomous, rhythmic autophagy levels in immortalized murine fibroblasts, and that siRNA-mediated downregulation of PER2 decreases autophagy levels while leaving core clock oscillations intact. Moreover, the Period homologue lin-42 regulates autophagy and life span in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved role for Period proteins in autophagy control and aging. Taken together, this study identifies circadian clock proteins as set-point regulators of autophagy and puts forward a model, in which age-related changes of clock gene expression promote declining autophagy levels.
Dermal fibroblasts provide a paradigmatic model of cellular adaptation to long-term exogenous stress and ageing processes driven thereby. Here we addressed whether fibroblast ageing analysed ex vivo entails genome instability. Dermal fibroblasts from human female donors aged 20–67 years were studied in primary culture at low population doubling. Under these conditions, the incidence of replicative senescence and rates of age-correlated telomere shortening were insignificant. Genome-wide gene expression analysis revealed age-related impairment of mitosis, telomere and chromosome maintenance and induction of genes associated with DNA repair and non-homologous end-joining, most notably XRCC4 and ligase 4. We observed an age-correlated drop in proliferative capacity and age-correlated increases in heterochromatin marks, structural chromosome abnormalities (deletions, translocations and chromatid breaks), DNA strand breaks and histone H2AX-phosphorylation. In a third of the cells from old and middle-aged donors repair of X-ray induced DNA strand breaks was impaired despite up-regulation of DNA repair genes. The distinct phenotype of genome instability, increased heterochromatinisation and (in 30% of the cases futile) up-regulation of DNA repair genes was stably maintained over several cell passages indicating that it represents a feature of geroconversion that is distinct from cellular senescence, as it does not encompass a block of proliferation.
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