Senescent cells (SCs) accumulate with age and after genotoxic stress, such as total-body irradiation (TBI)1–6. Clearance of SCs in a progeroid mouse model using a transgenic approach delays several age-associated disorders7, suggesting that SCs play a causative role in certain age-related pathologies. Thus, a ‘senolytic’ pharmacological agent that can selectively kill SCs holds promise for rejuvenating tissue stem cells and extending health span. To test this idea, we screened a collection of compounds and identified ABT263 (a specific inhibitor of the anti-apoptotic proteins BCL-2 and BCL-xL) as a potent senolytic drug. We show that ABT263 selectively kills SCs in culture in a cell type– and species-independent manner by inducing apoptosis. Oral administration of ABT263 to either sublethally irradiated or normally aged mice effectively depleted SCs, including senescent bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and senescent muscle stem cells (MuSCs). Notably, this depletion mitigated TBI-induced premature aging of the hematopoietic system and rejuvenated the aged HSCs and MuSCs in normally aged mice. Our results demonstrate that selective clearance of SCs by a pharmacological agent is beneficial in part through its rejuvenation of aged tissue stem cells. Thus, senolytic drugs may represent a new class of radiation mitigators and anti-aging agents.
Cellular senescence suppresses cancer by irreversibly arresting cell proliferation. Senescent cells acquire a pro-inflammatory senescence-associated secretory phenotype. Many genotoxic chemotherapies target proliferating cells non-specifically, often with adverse reactions. In accord with prior work, we show that several chemotherapeutic drugs induce senescence of primary murine and human cells. Using a transgenic mouse that permits tracking and eliminating senescent cells, we show that therapy-induced senescent (TIS) cells persist and contribute to local and systemic inflammation. Eliminating TIS cells reduced several short- and long-term effects of the drugs, including bone marrow suppression, cardiac dysfunction, cancer recurrence and physical activity and strength. Consistent with our findings in mice, the risk of chemotherapy-induced fatigue was significantly greater in humans with increased expression of a senescence marker in T-cells prior to chemotherapy. These findings suggest that senescent cells can cause certain chemotherapy side effects, providing a new target to reduce the toxicity of anti-cancer treatments.
Gold nanoparticles have potential applications in biomedicine, but one of the important concerns is about their safety. Most toxicology data are derived from in vitro studies and may not reflect in vivo responses. Here, an animal toxicity study of 13.5 nm gold nanoparticles in mice is presented. Animal survival, weight, hematology, morphology, and organ index are characterized at different concentrations (137.5-2200 µg/kg) over 14-28 days. The results show that low concentrations of gold nanoparticles do not cause an obvious decrease in body weight or appreciable toxicity, even after their breakdown in vivo. High concentrations of gold nanoparticles induced decreases in body weight, red blood cells, and hematocrit. It was also found that gold nanoparticles administered orally caused significant decreases in body weight, spleen index, and red blood cells. Of the three administration routes, the oral and intraperitoneal routes showed the highest toxicity, and the tail vein injection showed the lowest toxicity. Combining the results of all of these studies, we suggest that targeted gold nanopartices by tail vein injection may be suitable for enhancement of radiotherapy, photothermal therapy, and related medical diagnostic procedures.
Accumulating evidence indicates that senescent cells play an important role in many age-associated diseases. The pharmacological depletion of senescent cells (SCs) with a “senolytic agent”, a small molecule that selectively kills SCs, is a potential novel therapeutic approach for these diseases. Recently, we discovered ABT-263, a potent and highly selective senolytic agent, by screening a library of rationally-selected compounds. With this screening approach, we also identified a second senolytic agent called piperlongumine (PL). PL is a natural product that is reported to have many pharmacological effects, including anti-tumor activity. We show here that PL preferentially killed senescent human WI-38 fibroblasts when senescence was induced by ionizing radiation, replicative exhaustion, or ectopic expression of the oncogene Ras. PL killed SCs by inducing apoptosis, and this process did not require the induction of reactive oxygen species. In addition, we found that PL synergistically killed SCs in combination with ABT-263, and initial structural modifications to PL identified analogs with improved potency and/or selectivity in inducing SC death. Overall, our studies demonstrate that PL is a novel lead for developing senolytic agents.
SummaryAge‐related bone loss in mice results from a decrease in bone formation and an increase in cortical bone resorption. The former is accounted by a decrease in the number of postmitotic osteoblasts which synthesize the bone matrix and is thought to be the consequence of age‐dependent changes in mesenchymal osteoblast progenitors. However, there are no specific markers for these progenitors, and conclusions rely on results from in vitro cultures of mixed cell populations. Moreover, the culprits of such changes remain unknown. Here, we have used Osx1‐Cre;TdRFP mice in which osteoprogenitors express the TdRFP fluorescent protein. We report that the number of TdRFP‐Osx1 cells, freshly isolated from the bone marrow, declines by more than 50% between 6 and 24 months of age in both female and male mice. Moreover, TdRFP‐Osx1 cells from old mice exhibited markers of DNA damage and senescence, such as γH2AX foci, G1 cell cycle arrest, phosphorylation of p53, increased p21CIP 1 levels, as well as increased levels of GATA4 and activation of NF‐κB – two major stimulators of the senescence‐associated secretory phenotype (SASP). Bone marrow stromal cells from old mice also exhibited elevated expression of SASP genes, including several pro‐osteoclastogenic cytokines, and increased capacity to support osteoclast formation. These changes were greatly attenuated by the senolytic drug ABT263. Together, these findings suggest that the decline in bone mass with age is the result of intrinsic defects in osteoprogenitor cells, leading to decreased osteoblast numbers and increased support of osteoclast formation.
Small molecules that selectively kill senescent cells (SCs), termed senolytics, have the potential to prevent and treat various age-related diseases and extend healthspan. The use of Bcl-xl inhibitors as senolytics is largely limited by their on-target and dose-limiting platelet toxicity. Here, we report the use of proteolysis-targeting chimera (PROTAC) technology to reduce the platelet toxicity of navitoclax (also known as ABT263), a Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl dual inhibitor, by converting it into PZ15227 (PZ), a Bcl-xl PROTAC, which targets Bcl-xl to the cereblon (CRBN) E3 ligase for degradation. Compared to ABT263, PZ is less toxic to platelets, but equally or slightly more potent against SCs because CRBN is poorly expressed in platelets. PZ effectively clears SCs and rejuvenates tissue stem and progenitor cells in naturally aged mice without causing severe thrombocytopenia. With further improvement, Bcl-xl PROTACs have the potential to become safer and more potent senolytic agents than Bcl-xl inhibitors.
Rationale Age‐related changes in the intervertebral discs are the predominant contributors to back pain, a common physical and functional impairment experienced by older persons. Cellular senescence, a process wherein cells undergo growth arrest and chronically secrete numerous inflammatory molecules and proteases, has been reported to cause decline in the health and function of multiple tissues with age. Although senescent cells have been reported to increase in intervertebral degeneration (IDD), it is not known whether they are causative in age‐related IDD. Objective The study aimed to elucidate whether a causal relationship exists between cellular senescence and age‐related IDD. Methods and Results To examine the impact of senescent cells on age‐associated IDD, we used p16‐3MR transgenic mice, which enables the selective removal of p16Ink4a‐positive senescent cells by the drug ganciclovir. Disc cellularity, aggrecan content and fragmentation alongside expression of inflammatory cytokine (IL‐6) and matrix proteases (ADAMTS4 and MMP13) in discs of p16‐3MR mice treated with GCV and untreated controls were assessed. In aged mice, reducing the per cent of senescent cells decreased disc aggrecan proteolytic degradation and increased overall proteoglycan matrix content along with improved histological disc features. Additionally, reduction of senescent cells lowered the levels of MMP13, which is purported to promote disc degenerative changes during aging. Conclusions The findings of this study suggest that systemic reduction in the number of senescent cells ameliorates multiple age‐associated changes within the disc tissue. Cellular senescence could therefore serve as a therapeutic target to restore the health of disc tissue that deteriorates with age.
SummaryThe selective depletion of senescent cells (SCs) by small molecules, termed senolytic agents, is a promising therapeutic approach for treating age‐related diseases and chemotherapy‐ and radiotherapy‐induced side effects. Piperlongumine (PL) was recently identified as a novel senolytic agent. However, its mechanism of action and molecular targets in SCs was unknown and thus was investigated. Specifically, we used a PL‐based chemical probe to pull‐down PL‐binding proteins from live cells and then mass spectrometry‐based proteomic analysis to identify potential molecular targets of PL in SCs. One prominent target was oxidation resistance 1 (OXR1), an important antioxidant protein that regulates the expression of a variety of antioxidant enzymes. We found that OXR1 was upregulated in senescent human WI38 fibroblasts. PL bound to OXR1 directly and induced its degradation through the ubiquitin‐proteasome system in an SC‐specific manner. The knockdown of OXR1 expression by RNA interference significantly increased the production of reactive oxygen species in SCs in conjunction with the downregulation of antioxidant enzymes such as heme oxygenase 1, glutathione peroxidase 2, and catalase, but these effects were much less significant when OXR1 was knocked down in non‐SCs. More importantly, knocking down OXR1 selectively induced apoptosis in SCs and sensitized the cells to oxidative stress caused by hydrogen peroxide. These findings provide new insights into the mechanism by which SCs are highly resistant to oxidative stress and suggest that OXR1 is a novel senolytic target that can be further exploited for the development of new senolytic agents.
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