The major hallmark of cellular senescence is an irreversible cell cycle arrest and thus it is a potent tumor suppressor mechanism. Genotoxic insults, e.g. oxidative stress, are important inducers of the senescent phenotype which is characterized by an accumulation of senescence-associated heterochromatic foci (SAHF) and DNA segments with chromatin alterations reinforcing senescence (DNA-SCARS). Interestingly, senescent cells secrete pro-inflammatory factors and thus the condition has been called the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). Emerging data has revealed that NF-κB signaling is the major signaling pathway which stimulates the appearance of SASP. It is known that DNA damage provokes NF-κB signaling via a variety of signaling complexes containing NEMO protein, an NF-κB essential modifier, as well as via the activation of signaling pathways of p38MAPK and RIG-1, retinoic acid inducible gene-1. Genomic instability evoked by cellular stress triggers epigenetic changes, e.g. release of HMGB1 proteins which are also potent enhancers of inflammatory responses. Moreover, environmental stress and chronic inflammation can stimulate p38MAPK and ceramide signaling and induce cellular senescence with pro-inflammatory responses. On the other hand, two cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors, p16INK4a and p14ARF, are effective inhibitors of NF-κB signaling. We will review in detail the signaling pathways which activate NF-κB signaling and trigger SASP in senescent cells.
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