Background: Functional decline in stem cell-mediated regeneration contributes to aging associated with cellular senescence in c-kit+ cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs). Clinical implementation of CPC-based therapy in elderly patients would benefit tremendously from understanding molecular characteristics of senescence to antagonize aging. Nucleostemin (NS) is a nucleolar protein regulating stem cell proliferation and pluripotency.
Objectives: This study sought to demonstrate that NS preserves characteristics associated with "stemness" in CPCs and antagonizes myocardial senescence and aging.
Methods: CPCs isolated from human fetal (fetal human cardiac progenitor cell [FhCPC]) and adult failing (adult human cardiac progenitor cell [AhCPC]) hearts, as well as young (young cardiac progenitor cell [YCPC]) and old mice (old cardiac progenitor cell [OCPC]), were studied for senescence characteristics and NS expression. Heterozygous knockout mice with 1 functional allele of NS (NS+/-) were used to demonstrate that NS preserves myocardial structure and function and slows characteristics of aging.
Results: NS expression is decreased in AhCPCs relative to FhCPCs, correlating with lowered proliferation potential and shortened telomere length. AhCPC characteristics resemble those of OCPCs, which have a phenotype induced by NS silencing, resulting in cell flattening, senescence, multinucleated cells, decreased S-phase progression, diminished expression of stemness markers, and up-regulation of p53 and p16. CPC senescence resulting from NS loss is partially p53 dependent and is rescued by concurrent silencing of p53. Mechanistically, NS induction correlates with Pim-1 kinase-mediated stabilization of c-Myc. Engineering OCPCs and AhCPCs to overexpress NS decreases senescent and multinucleated cells, restores morphology, and antagonizes senescence, thereby preserving phenotypic properties of "stemness." Early cardiac aging with a decline in cardiac function, an increase in senescence markers p53 and p16, telomere attrition, and accompanied CPC exhaustion is evident in NS+/- mice.
Conclusions: Youthful properties and antagonism of senescence in CPCs and the myocardium are consistent with a role for NS downstream from Pim-1 signaling that enhances cardiac regeneration.
Keywords: aging; senescence; signal transduction.
Copyright © 2015 American College of Cardiology Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.