There is growing evidence that senescent cells accumulate in vivo and are associated with the aging process in parallel with the progressive erosion of telomeres. Because recent data show that telomere shortening is involved in the pathogenesis of liver cirrhosis, we looked for replicative senescence cells in normal livers, chronic hepatitis C, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Replicative senescent cells were detected on liver tissue cryosections using expression of a specific marker, senescence-associated beta-galactosidase, a cytoplasmic enzyme detected at pH 6. A total of 57 frozen liver samples (15 normal liver, 32 chronic hepatitis C, and 10 HCCs) were studied. Replicative senescence was graded as absent in 56% of cases (32 of 57) and present in 44% (25 of 57). Replicative senescence was considered present in 3 of 15 normal livers (20%), 16 of 32 chronic hepatitis cases (50%), and 6 of 10 HCCs (60%). In the group of nontumoral livers, the presence of senescent cells in liver was associated with older age (P =.03). In the group with chronic hepatitis C, fibrosis stage, but not activity grade, was significantly correlated with the accumulation of replicative senescent cells (P <.001). Finally, beta-Gal staining in nontumoral tissue was strongly correlated with the presence of HCC in the surrounding liver (P <.001). These results suggest that chronic hepatitis C represents a relevant model of accelerated replicative senescence and that accumulation of replicative senescent cells predispose to HCC development. Detection of replicative senescent cells may then serve as a predictive marker of a hepatocellular carcinoma in the surrounding tissue. HUM PATHOL 32:327-332.
Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company