Conserved and novel functions of programmed cellular senescence during vertebrate development

Development. 2017 Jan 1;144(1):106-114. doi: 10.1242/dev.138222. Epub 2016 Nov 25.


Cellular senescence, a form of stable cell cycle arrest that is traditionally associated with tumour suppression, has been recently found to occur during mammalian development. Here, we show that cell senescence is an intrinsic part of the developmental programme in amphibians. Programmed senescence occurs in specific structures during defined time windows during amphibian development. It contributes to the physiological degeneration of the amphibian pronephros and to the development of the cement gland and oral cavity. In both contexts, senescence depends on TGFβ but is independent of ERK/MAPK activation. Furthermore, elimination of senescent cells through temporary TGFβ inhibition leads to developmental defects. Our findings uncover conserved and new roles of senescence in vertebrate organogenesis and support the view that cellular senescence may have arisen in evolution as a developmental mechanism.

Keywords: Axolotl; Cellular senescence; Cement gland; Kidney; TGFβ; Xenopus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambystoma mexicanum / embryology
  • Amphibians / embryology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / physiology
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Kidney / embryology
  • Organogenesis / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology
  • Vertebrates / embryology*
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta