Cellular senescence is a state of stable cell growth arrest. Activation of oncogenes such as RAS in mammalian cells typically triggers cellular senescence. Oncogene-induced senescence (OIS) is an important tumor suppression mechanism, and suppression of OIS contributes to cell transformation. Oncogenes trigger senescence through a multitude of incompletely understood downstream signaling events that frequently involve protein kinases. To identify target proteins required for RAS-induced senescence, we developed a small-molecule screen in primary human fibroblasts undergoing senescence induced by oncogenic RAS (H-Ras(G12V)). Using a high-content imaging system to monitor two hallmarks of senescence, senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity expression and inhibition of proliferation, we screened a library of known small-molecule kinase inhibitors for those that suppressed OIS. Identified compounds were subsequently validated and confirmed using a third marker of senescence, senescence-associated heterochromatin foci. In summary, we have established a novel high-content screening platform that may be useful for elucidating signaling pathways mediating OIS by targeting critical pathway components.
Keywords: cancer and cancer drugs; cell-based assays; high-content screening; kinases.