Iron accumulation during cellular senescence in human fibroblasts in vitro

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2003 Oct;5(5):507-16. doi: 10.1089/152308603770310158.


Iron accumulates as a function of age in several tissues in vivo and is associated with the pathology of numerous age-related diseases. The molecular basis of this change may be due to a loss of iron homeostasis at the cellular level. Therefore, changes in iron content in primary human fibroblast cells (IMR-90) were studied in vitro as a model of cellular senescence. Total iron content increased exponentially during cellular senescence, resulting in 10-fold higher levels of iron compared with young cells. Low-dose hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) induced early senescence in IMR-90s and concomitantly accelerated iron accumulation. Furthermore, senescence-related and H2O2-stimulated iron accumulation was attenuated by N-tert-butylhydroxylamine (NtBHA), a mitochondrial antioxidant that delays senescence in vitro. However, SV40-transformed, immortalized IMR-90s showed no time-dependent changes in metal content in culture or when treated with H2O2 and/or NtBHA. These data indicate that iron accumulation occurs during normal cellular senescence in vitro. This accumulation of iron may contribute to the increased oxidative stress and cellular dysfunction seen in senescent cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cellular Senescence*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endothelial Cells / chemistry
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / chemistry
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Hydroxylamines / pharmacology
  • Iron / analysis
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Magnesium / analysis
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Manganese / analysis
  • Manganese / metabolism
  • Potassium / analysis
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission
  • Time Factors
  • Umbilical Veins / cytology
  • Zinc / analysis
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Hydroxylamines
  • Proteins
  • N-tert-butylhydroxylamine
  • Manganese
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Potassium