Background: Limited replicative capacity is a defining characteristic of most normal human cells and culminates in senescence, an arrested state in which cells remain viable but display an altered pattern of gene and protein expression. To survey widely the alterations in gene expression, we have developed a DNA microarray analysis system that contains genes previously reported to be involved in aging, as well as those involved in many of the major biochemical signaling pathways.
Results: Senescence-associated gene expression was assessed in three cell types: dermal fibroblasts, retinal pigment epithelial cells, and vascular endothelial cells. Fibroblasts demonstrated a strong inflammatory-type response, but shared limited overlap in senescent gene expression patterns with the other two cell types. The characteristics of the senescence response were highly cell-type specific. A comparison of early- and late-passage cells stimulated with serum showed specific deficits in the early and mid G1 response of senescent cells. Several genes that are constitutively overexpressed in senescent fibroblasts are regulated during the cell cycle in early-passage cells, suggesting that senescent cells are locked in an activated state that mimics the early remodeling phase of wound repair.
Conclusions: Replicative senescence triggers mRNA expression patterns that vary widely and cell lineage strongly influences these patterns. In fibroblasts, the senescent state mimics inflammatory wound repair processes and, as such, senescent cells may contribute to chronic wound pathologies.