Telomere dysfunction promotes transdifferentiation of human fibroblasts into myofibroblasts.
ABSTRACT: Cells that had undergone telomere dysfunction-induced senescence secrete numerous cytokines and other molecules, collectively called the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). Although certain SASP factors have been demonstrated to promote cellular senescence in neighboring cells in a paracrine manner, the mechanisms leading to bystander senescence and the functional significance of these effects are currently unclear. Here, we demonstrate that TGF-?1, a component of the SASP, causes telomere dysfunction in normal somatic human fibroblasts in a Smad3/NOX4/ROS-dependent manner. Surprisingly, instead of activating cellular senescence, TGF-?1-induced telomere dysfunction caused fibroblasts to transdifferentiate into ?-SMA-expressing myofibroblasts, a mesenchymal and contractile cell type that is critical for wound healing and tissue repair. Despite the presence of dysfunctional telomeres, transdifferentiated cells acquired the ability to contract collagen lattices and displayed a gene expression signature characteristic of functional myofibroblasts. Significantly, the formation of dysfunctional telomeres and downstream p53 signaling was necessary for myofibroblast transdifferentiation, as suppressing telomere dysfunction by expression of hTERT, inhibiting the signaling pathways that lead to stochastic telomere dysfunction, and suppressing p53 function prevented the generation of myofibroblasts in response to TGF-?1 signaling. Furthermore, inducing telomere dysfunction using shRNA against TRF2 also caused cells to develop features that are characteristic of myofibroblasts, even in the absence of exogenous TGF-?1. Overall, our data demonstrate that telomere dysfunction is not only compatible with cell functionality, but they also demonstrate that the generation of dysfunctional telomeres is an essential step for transdifferentiation of human fibroblasts into myofibroblasts.
Project description:Telomere dysfunction plays a complex role in tumorigenesis. While dysfunctional telomeres can block the proliferation of incipient cancer clones by inducing replicative senescence, fusion of dysfunctional telomeres can drive genome instability and oncogenic genomic rearrangements. Therefore, it is important to define the regulatory pathways that guide these opposing effects. Recent work has shown that the autophagy pathway regulates both senescence and genome instability in various contexts. Here, we apply models of acute telomere dysfunction to determine whether autophagy modulates the resulting genome instability and senescence responses. While telomere dysfunction rapidly induces autophagic flux in human fibroblast cell lines, inhibition of the autophagy pathway does not have a significant impact upon the transition to senescence, in contrast to what has previously been reported for oncogene-induced senescence. Our results suggest that this difference may be explained by disparities in the development of the senescence-associated secretory phenotype. We also show that chromosome fusions induced by telomere dysfunction are comparable in autophagy-proficient and autophagy-deficient cells. Altogether, our results highlight the complexity of the senescence-autophagy interface and indicate that autophagy induction is unlikely to play a significant role in telomere dysfunction-driven senescence and chromosome fusions.
Project description:Telomeres protect against chromosomal damage. Accelerated telomere loss has been associated with premature aging syndromes such as Werner's syndrome and Dyskeratosis Congenita, while, progressive telomere loss activates a DNA damage response leading to chromosomal instability, typically observed in cancer cells and senescent cells. Therefore, identifying mechanisms of telomere length maintenance is critical for understanding human pathologies. In this paper we demonstrate that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a causal role in telomere shortening. Furthermore, hnRNPA2, a mitochondrial stress responsive lysine acetyltransferase (KAT) acetylates telomere histone H4at lysine 8 of (H4K8) and this acetylation is associated with telomere attrition. Cells containing dysfunctional mitochondria have higher telomere H4K8 acetylation and shorter telomeres independent of cell proliferation rates. Ectopic expression of KAT mutant hnRNPA2 rescued telomere length possibly due to impaired H4K8 acetylation coupled with inability to activate telomerase expression. The phenotypic outcome of telomere shortening in immortalized cells included chromosomal instability (end-fusions) and telomerase activation, typical of an oncogenic transformation; while in non-telomerase expressing fibroblasts, mitochondrial dysfunction induced-telomere attrition resulted in senescence. Our findings provide a mechanistic association between dysfunctional mitochondria and telomere loss and therefore describe a novel epigenetic signal for telomere length maintenance.
Project description:Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is a progressive inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutation of the FXN gene, resulting in decreased frataxin expression, mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress. A recent study has identified shorter telomeres in FRDA patient leukocytes as a possible disease biomarker.Here we aimed to investigate both telomere structure and function in FRDA cells. Our results confirmed telomere shortening in FRDA patient leukocytes and identified similar telomere shortening in FRDA patient autopsy cerebellar tissues. However, FRDA fibroblasts showed significantly longer telomeres at early passage, occurring in the absence of telomerase activity, but with activation of an alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT)-like mechanism. These cells also showed accelerated telomere shortening as population doubling increases. Furthermore, telomere dysfunction-induced foci (TIF) analysis revealed that FRDA fibroblasts have dysfunctional telomeres.Our finding of dysfunctional telomeres in FRDA cells provides further insight into FRDA molecular disease mechanisms, which may have implications for future FRDA therapy.
Project description:Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) is a genetic disorder characterized by premature aging features. Cells from HGPS patients express progerin, a truncated form of Lamin A, which perturbs cellular homeostasis leading to nuclear shape alterations, genome instability, heterochromatin loss, telomere dysfunction and premature entry into cellular senescence. Recently, we reported that telomere dysfunction induces the transcription of telomeric non-coding RNAs (tncRNAs) which control the DNA damage response (DDR) at dysfunctional telomeres. Here we show that progerin-induced telomere dysfunction induces the transcription of tncRNAs. Their functional inhibition by sequence-specific telomeric antisense oligonucleotides (tASOs) prevents full DDR activation and premature cellular senescence in various HGPS cell systems, including HGPS patient fibroblasts. We also show in vivo that tASO treatment significantly enhances skin homeostasis and lifespan in a transgenic HGPS mouse model. In summary, our results demonstrate an important role for telomeric DDR activation in HGPS progeroid detrimental phenotypes in vitro and in vivo.
Project description:Aging is an inherently stochastic process, and its hallmark is heterogeneity between organisms, cell types, and clonal populations, even in identical environments. The replicative lifespan of primary human cells is telomere dependent; however, its heterogeneity is not understood. We show that mitochondrial superoxide production increases with replicative age in human fibroblasts despite an adaptive UCP-2-dependent mitochondrial uncoupling. This mitochondrial dysfunction is accompanied by compromised [Ca(2+)]i homeostasis and other indicators of a retrograde response in senescent cells. Replicative senescence of human fibroblasts is delayed by mild mitochondrial uncoupling. Uncoupling reduces mitochondrial superoxide generation, slows down telomere shortening, and delays formation of telomeric gamma-H2A.X foci. This indicates mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as one of the causes of replicative senescence. By sorting early senescent (SES) cells from young proliferating fibroblast cultures, we show that SES cells have higher ROS levels, dysfunctional mitochondria, shorter telomeres, and telomeric gamma-H2A.X foci. We propose that mitochondrial ROS is a major determinant of telomere-dependent senescence at the single-cell level that is responsible for cell-to-cell variation in replicative lifespan.
Project description:Telomere shortening limits the proliferation of primary human fibroblasts by the induction of senescence, which is mediated by ataxia telangiectasia mutated-dependent activation of p53. Here, we show that CHK2 deletion impairs the induction of senescence in mouse and human fibroblasts. By contrast, CHK2 deletion did not improve the stem-cell function, organ maintenance and lifespan of telomere dysfunctional mice and did not prevent the induction of p53/p21, apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest in telomere dysfunctional progenitor cells. Together, these results indicate that CHK2 mediates the induction of senescence in fibroblasts, but is dispensable for the induction of telomere dysfunction checkpoints at the stem and progenitor cell level in vivo.
Project description:Dysfunctional telomeres limit cellular proliferative capacity by activating the p53-p21- and p16(INK4a)-Rb-dependent DNA damage responses (DDRs). The p16(INK4a) tumor suppressor accumulates in aging tissues, is a biomarker for cellular senescence, and limits stem cell function in vivo. While the activation of a p53-dependent DDR by dysfunctional telomeres has been well documented in human cells and mouse models, the role for p16(INK4a) in response to telomere dysfunction remains unclear. Here, we generated protection of telomeres 1b p16-/- mice (Pot1b?/?;p16-/-) to address the function of p16(INK4a) in the setting of telomere dysfunction in vivo. We found that deletion of p16(INK4a) accelerated organ impairment and observed functional defects in highly proliferative organs, including the hematopoietic system, small intestine, and testes. Pot1b?/?;p16-/- hematopoietic cells exhibited increased telomere loss, increased chromosomal fusions, and telomere replication defects. p16(INK4a) deletion enhanced the activation of the ATR-dependent DDR in Pot1b?/? hematopoietic cells, leading to p53 stabilization, increased p21-dependent cell cycle arrest, and elevated p53-dependent apoptosis. In contrast to p16(INK4a), deletion of p21 did not activate ATR, rescued proliferative defects in Pot1b?/? hematopoietic cells, and significantly increased organismal lifespan. Our results provide experimental evidence that p16(INK4a) exerts protective functions in proliferative cells bearing dysfunctional telomeres.
Project description:Spontaneous senescence of cancer cells remains a puzzling and poorly understood phenomenon. Here we comprehensively characterize this process in primary epithelial ovarian cancer cells (pEOCs). Analysis of tumors from ovarian cancer patients showed an abundance of senescent cells in vivo. Further, serially passaged pEOCs become senescent after a few divisions. These senescent cultures display trace proliferation, high expression of senescence biomarkers (SA--Gal, -H2A.X), growth-arrest in the G1 phase, increased level of cyclins D1, D2, decreased cyclin B1, up-regulated p16, p21, and p53 proteins, eroded telomeres, reduced activity of telomerase, predominantly non-telomeric DNA damage, activated AKT, AP-1, and ERK1/2 signaling, diminished JNK, NF-B, and STAT3 pathways, increased formation of reactive oxygen species, unchanged activity of antioxidants, increased oxidative damage to DNA and proteins, and dysfunctional mitochondria. Moreover, pEOC senescence is inducible by normal peritoneal mesothelium, fibroblasts, and malignant ascites via the paracrine activity of GRO-1, HGF, and TGF-1. Collectively, pEOCs undergo spontaneous senescence in a mosaic, telomere-dependent and telomere-independent manner, plausibly in an oxidative stress-dependent mechanism. The process may also be activated by extracellular stimuli. The biological and clinical significance of pEOC senescence remains to be explored.
Project description:Telomeres, the nucleoprotein complex at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes, perform an essential cellular role in part by preventing the chromosomal end from initiating a DNA-damage response. This function of telomeres can be compromised as telomeres erode either as a consequence of cell division in culture or as a normal part of cellular ageing in proliferative tissues. Telomere dysfunction in this context leads to DNA-damage signaling and activation of the tumor-suppressor protein p53, which then can prompt either cellular senescence or apoptosis. By culling cells with dysfunctional telomeres, p53 plays a critical role in protecting tissues against the effects of critically short telomeres. However, as telomere dysfunction worsens, p53 likely exacerbates short telomere-driven tissue failure diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis, aplastic anemia, and liver cirrhosis. In cells lacking p53, unchecked telomere shortening drives chromosomal end-to-end fusions and cycles of chromosome fusion-bridge-breakage. Incipient cancer cells confronting these telomere barriers must disable p53 signaling to avoid senescence and eventually up-regulate telomerase to achieve cellular immortality. The recent findings of highly recurrent activating mutations in the promoter for the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene in diverse human cancers, together with the widespread mutations in p53 in cancer, provide support for the idea that circumvention of a telomere-p53 checkpoint is essential for malignant progression in human cancer.
Project description:Cellular senescence is a phenotype that is likely linked with aging. Recent concepts view different forms of senescence as permanently maintained DNA damage responses partially characterized by the presence of senescence-associated DNA damage foci at dysfunctional telomeres. Irradiation of primary human dermal fibroblasts with the photosensitizer 8-methoxypsoralen and ultraviolet A radiation (PUVA) induces senescence. In the present study, we demonstrate that senescence after PUVA depends on DNA interstrand cross-link (ICL) formation that activates ATR kinase. ATR is necessary for the manifestation and maintenance of the senescent phenotype, because depletion of ATR expression before PUVA prevents induction of senescence, and reduction of ATR expression in PUVA-senesced fibroblasts releases cells from growth arrest. We find an ATR-dependent phosphorylation of the histone H2AX (gamma-H2AX). After PUVA, ATR and gamma-H2AX colocalize in multiple nuclear foci. After several days, only few predominantly telomere-localized foci persist and telomeric DNA can be coimmunoprecipitated with ATR from PUVA-senesced fibroblasts. We thus identify ATR as a novel mediator of telomere-dependent senescence in response to ICL induced by photoactivated psoralens.