Transient induction of p53 can cause reversible quiescence and irreversible senescence. Using nutlin-3a (a small molecule that activates p53 without causing DNA damage), we have previously identified cell lines in which nutlin-3a caused quiescence. Importantly, nutlin-3a caused quiescence by actively suppressing the senescence program (while still causing cell cycle arrest). Noteworthy, in these cells nutlin-3a inhibited the mTOR (mammalian Target of Rapamycin) pathway, which is known to be involved in the senescence program. Here we showed that shRNA-mediated knockdown of TSC2, a negative regulator of mTOR, partially converted quiescence into senescence in these nutlin-arrested cells. In accord, in melanoma cell lines and mouse embryo fibroblasts, which easily undergo senescence in response to p53 activation, nutlin-3a failed to inhibit mTOR. In these senescence-prone cells, the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin converted nutlin-3a-induced senescence into quiescence. We conclude that status of the mTOR pathway can determine, at least in part, the choice between senescence and quiescence in p53-arrested cells.
When the cell cycle is arrested, growth-promoting pathways such as mTOR (Target of Rapamycin) drive cellular senescence, characterized by cellular hyper-activation, hypertrophy and permanent loss of the proliferative potential. While arresting cell cycle, p53 (under certain conditions) can inhibit the mTOR pathway. Senescence occurs when p53 fails to inhibit mTOR. Low concentrations of DNA-damaging drugs induce p53 at levels that do not inhibit mTOR, thus causing senescence. In quiescence caused by serum starvation, mTOR is deactivated. This predicts that induction of p53 will not cause senescence in such quiescent cells. Here we tested this prediction. In proliferating normal cells, etoposide caused senescence (cells could not resume proliferation after removal of etoposide). Serum starvation prevented induction of senescence, but not of p53, by etoposide. When etoposide was removed, such cells resumed proliferation upon addition of serum. Also, doxorubicin did not cause senescent morphology in the absence of serum. Re-addition of serum caused mTOR-dependent senescence in the presence of etoposide or doxorubicin. Also, serum-starvation prevented senescent morphology caused by nutlin-3a in MCF-7 and Mel-10 cells. We conclude that induction of p53 does not activate the senescence program in quiescent cells. In cells with induced p53, re-activation of mTOR by serum stimulation causes senescence, as an equivalent of cellular growth.
Cell cycle arrest coupled with hyper-active mTOR leads to cellular senescence. While arresting cell cycle, high levels of p53 can inhibit mTOR (in some cell lines), thus causing reversible quiescence instead of senescence. Nutlin-3a-induced p53 inhibited mTOR and thus caused quiescence in WI-38 cells. In contrast, while arresting cell cycle, the DNA-damaging drug doxorubicin (DOX) did not inhibit mTOR and caused senescence. Super-induction of p53 by either nutlin-3a or high concentrations of DOX (high-DOX) prevented low-DOX-induced senescence, converting it into quiescence. This explains why in order to cause senescence, DNA damaging drugs must be used at low concentrations, which arrest cell cycle but do not induce p53 at levels sufficient to suppress mTOR. Noteworthy, very prolonged treatment with nutlin-3a also caused senescence preventable by rapamycin. In RPE cells, low concentrations of nutlin-3a caused a semi-senescent morphology. Higher concentrations of nutlin-3a inhibited mTOR and caused quiescent morphology. We conclude that low p53 levels during prolonged cell cycle arrest tend to cause senescence, whereas high levels of p53 tend to cause either quiescence or cell death.
Members of the protein kinase C (PKC) family of signal transduction molecules have been widely implicated in regulation of cell growth and differentiation, although the underlying molecular mechanisms involved remain poorly defined. Using combined in vitro and in vivo intestinal epithelial model systems, we demonstrate that PKC signaling can trigger a coordinated program of molecular events leading to cell cycle withdrawal into G0. PKC activation in the IEC-18 intestinal crypt cell line resulted in rapid downregulation of D-type cyclins and differential induction of p21waf1/cip1 and p27kip1, thus targeting all of the major G1/S cyclin-dependent kinase complexes. These events were associated with coordinated alterations in expression and phosphorylation of the pocket proteins p107, pRb, and p130 that drive cells to exit the cell cycle into G0 as indicated by concomitant downregulation of the DNA licensing factor cdc6. Manipulation of PKC isozyme levels in IEC-18 cells demonstrated that PKCα alone can trigger hallmark events of cell cycle withdrawal in intestinal epithelial cells. Notably, analysis of the developmental control of cell cycle regulatory molecules along the crypt–villus axis revealed that PKCα activation is appropriately positioned within intestinal crypts to trigger this program of cell cycle exit–specific events in situ. Together, these data point to PKCα as a key regulator of cell cycle withdrawal in the intestinal epithelium.
Unlike reversible quiescence, cellular senescence is characterized by a large flat cell morphology, β-gal staining and irreversible loss of regenerative (i.e., replicative) potential. Conversion from proliferative arrest to irreversible senescence, a process named geroconversion, is driven in part by growth-promoting pathways such as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). During cell cycle arrest, mTOR converts reversible arrest into senescence. Inhibitors of mTOR can suppress geroconversion, maintaining quiescence instead. It was shown that hypoxia inhibits mTOR. Therefore, we suggest that hypoxia may suppress geroconversion. Here we tested this hypothesis. In HT-p21-9 cells, expression of inducible p21 caused cell cycle arrest without inhibiting mTOR, leading to senescence. Hypoxia did not prevent p21 induction and proliferative arrest, but instead inhibited the mTOR pathway and geroconversion. Exposure to hypoxia during p21 induction prevented senescent morphology and loss of regenerative potential, thus maintaining reversible quiescence so cells could restart proliferation after switching p21 off. Suppression of geroconversion was p53-and HIF-1-independent, as hypoxia also suppressed geroconversion in cells lacking functional p53 and HIF-1α. Also, in normal fibroblasts and retinal cells, hypoxia inhibited the mTOR pathway and suppressed senescence caused by etoposide without affecting DNA damage response, p53/p21 induction and cell cycle arrest. Also hypoxia suppressed geroconversion in cells treated with nutlin-3a, a nongenotoxic inducer of p53, in cell lines susceptible to nutlin-3a-induced senescence (MEL-10, A172, and NKE). Thus, in normal and cancer cell lines, hypoxia suppresses geroconversion caused by diverse stimuli. Physiological and clinical implications of the present findings are discussed.oncology | gerontology | biology R ecent evidence emerges that the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway is involved in cellular aging (1, 2). Nutrients, cytokines, growth factors, and hormones activate the mTOR pathway, which drives cellular mass growth (3, 4). In proliferating cells, cellular growth in size is balanced by cell division. When the cell cycle is arrested and cells thus do not divide, inappropriate activation of growth-promoting pathways such as mTOR converts cell cycle arrest into senescence (1, 2). Senescence is characterized by a large flat cell morphology, β-gal staining, and a hypersecretory phenotype (5, 6). In a widely used cellular model, induction of ectopic p21 by isopropyl-thio-galactosidase (IPTG) arrests HT-p21-9 cells (7,8). Initially (during 2-3 d), this condition is reversible: when p21 is switched off, cells resume proliferation (7,8). While inhibiting the cell cycle, p21 does not inhibit mTOR, which in turn converts arrest into irreversible senescence (1). By day 3, cells become large, flat, and β-gal-positive, and lose regenerative potential (RP): cells cannot resume proliferation when p21 is switched off. The conversion from reversible arrest to senescence, a process na...
Significance This work solves longstanding mysteries in the field of contact inhibition (CI), cancer, and aging. As shown here during CI, cells do not undergo senescence, thus resuming proliferation after replating. We found that CI was associated with inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, which is required for the senescence program. In cancer cells, lacking CI, mTOR was still inhibited in high cell density by an alternative mechanism. Our work explains why CI is reversible and how cells can avoid senescence in vivo, allowing the organism to last for decades. Implications for cancer therapy are discussed.
Signal transduction pathways are controlled by desensitization mechanisms, which can affect receptors and/or downstream signal transducers. It has long been recognized that members of the protein kinase C (PKC) family of signal transduction molecules undergo downregulation in response to activation. Previous reports have indicated that key steps in PKC␣ desensitization include caveolar internalization, priming site dephosphorylation, ubiquitination of the dephosphorylated protein, and degradation by the proteasome. In the current study, comparative analysis of PKC␣ processing induced by the PKC agonists phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and bryostatin 1 in IEC-18 rat intestinal epithelial cells demonstrates that: (a) at least two pathways of PKC␣ down-regulation can co-exist within cells, and (b) a single PKC agonist can activate both pathways at the same time. Using a combined biochemical and morphological approach, we identify a novel pathway of PKC␣ desensitization that involves ubiquitination of mature, fully phosphorylated activated enzyme at the plasma membrane and subsequent down-regulation by the proteasome. The phosphatase inhibitors okadaic acid and calyculin A accelerated PKC␣ down-regulation and inhibitors of vesicular trafficking did not prevent degradation of the protein, indicating that neither internalization nor priming site dephosphorylation are requisite intermediate steps in this ubiquitin/proteasome dependent pathway of PKC␣ down-regulation. Instead, caveolar trafficking and dephosphorylation are involved in a second, proteasomeindependent mechanism of PKC␣ desensitization in this system. Our findings highlight subcellular distribution and phosphorylation state as critical determinants of PKC␣ desensitization pathways.The PKC 1 family of phospholipid-dependent serine/threonine kinases plays a central role in signal transduction and has been implicated in regulation of a variety of fundamental cellular processes, including cell growth and cell cycle progression (1), differentiation (2), apoptosis (3), and survival (4). The tumor promoting properties of PKC agonists such as phorbol esters, together with evidence for changes in the expression and/or activity of PKC isozymes in a variety of malignancies, point to a role for altered PKC signaling in neoplastic transformation (e.g. Ref. 5). Strict control of PKC function is achieved by two coordinated mechanisms: consecutive phosphorylation on three "priming sites" (activation loop, turn motif, and hydrophobic motif), which is required for catalytic competence (6), and binding of second messengers (diacylglycerol and phosphatidylserine), which promotes membrane targeting required for conformational activation (7). Membrane compartmentalization of PKC is stabilized by binding of the enzyme to anchoring proteins that interact exclusively with the active kinase (8). As a consequence of such spatial control, PKC is sequestered in the vicinity of its substrates and performs its biological function(s) through substrate phosphorylation. The active species ...
Killing of proliferating normal cells limits chemotherapy of cancer. Several strategies to selectively protect normal cells were previously suggested. Here we further explored the protection of normal cells from cell cycle-specific chemotherapeutic agents such as mitotic inhibitors (MI). We focused on a long-term cell recovery (rather than on a short-term cell survival) after a 3-day exposure to MI (paclitaxel and nocodazole). In three normal human cell types (RPE, NKE, WI-38t cells) but not in cancer cells with mutant p53, pre-treatment with nutlin-3a, a non-genotoxic inducer of wt p53, caused G1 and/or G2 arrest, thus preventing lethal mitotic arrest caused by MI and allowing normal cells to recover after removal of MI. Rapamycin, an inhibitor of the nutrient-sensing mTOR pathway, potentiated the protective effect of nutlin-3a in normal cells. Also, a combination of rapamycin and metformin, an anti-diabetic drug, induced G1 and G2 arrest selectively in normal cells and thereby protected them from MI. A combination of metformin and rapamycin also protected normal cells in low glucose conditions, whereas in contrast it was cytotoxic for cancer cells. Based on these data and the analysis of the literature, we suggest that a rational combination of metformin and rapamycin can potentiate chemotherapy with mitotic inhibitors against cancer, while protecting normal cells, thus further increasing the therapeutic window.
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