Critical pathways in cellular senescence and immortalization revealed by gene expression profiling

Oncogene. 2008 Oct 9;27(46):5975-87. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.213. Epub 2008 Aug 18.


Bypassing cellular senescence and becoming immortal is a prerequisite step in the tumorigenic transformation of a cell. It has long been known that loss of a key tumor suppressor gene, such as p53, is necessary, but not sufficient, for spontaneous cellular immortalization. Therefore, there must be additional mutations and/or epigenetic alterations required for immortalization to occur. Early work on these processes included somatic cell genetic studies to estimate the number of senescence genes, and microcell-mediated transfer of chromosomes into immortalized cells to identify putative senescence-inducing genetic loci. These principal studies laid the foundation for the field of senescence/immortalization, but were labor intensive and the results were somewhat limited. The advent of gene expression profiling and bioinformatics analysis greatly facilitated the identification of genes and pathways that regulate cellular senescence/immortalization. In this review, we present the findings of several gene expression profiling studies and supporting functional data, where available. We identified universal genes regulating senescence/immortalization and found that the key regulator genes represented six pathways: the cell cycle pRB/p53, cytoskeletal, interferon-related, insulin growth factor-related, MAP kinase and oxidative stress pathway. The identification of the genes and pathways regulating senescence/immortalization could provide novel molecular targets for the treatment and/or prevention of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • CpG Islands / physiology
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Precancerous Conditions / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology