This review discusses the processes of DNA-damage-response and DNA-damage repair in stem and progenitor cells of several tissues. The long life-span of stem cells suggests that they may respond differently to DNA damage than their downstream progeny and, indeed, studies have begun to elucidate the unique stem cell response mechanisms to DNA damage. Because the DNA damage responses in stem cells and progenitor cells are distinctly different, stem and progenitor cells should be considered as two different entities from this point of view. Hematopoietic and mammary stem cells display a unique DNA-damage response, which involves active inhibition of apoptosis, entry into the cell-cycle, symmetric division, partial DNA repair and maintenance of self-renewal. Each of these biological events depends on the up-regulation of the cell-cycle inhibitor p21. Moreover, inhibition of apoptosis and symmetric stem cell division are the consequence of the down-regulation of the tumor suppressor p53, as a direct result of p21 up-regulation. A deeper understanding of these processes is required before these findings can be translated into human anti-aging and anti-cancer therapies. One needs to clarify and dissect the pathways that control p21 regulation in normal and cancer stem cells and define (a) how p21 blocks p53 functions in stem cells and (b) how p21 promotes DNA repair in stem cells. Is this effect dependent on p21s ability to inhibit p53? Such molecular knowledge may pave the way to methods for maintaining short-term tissue reconstitution while retaining long-term cellular and genomic integrity.
Keywords: Cancer aging; DNA damage; Self-renewal; Stem cells.
Copyright © 2013. Published by Elsevier Inc.