UHRF1 is required for basal stem cell proliferation in response to airway injury

Cell Discov. 2017 Jun 13;3:17019. doi: 10.1038/celldisc.2017.19. eCollection 2017.


Cellular senescence is a cell fate characterized by an irreversible cell cycle arrest, but the molecular mechanism underlying this senescence hallmark remains poorly understood. Through an unbiased search for novel senescence regulators in airway basal cells, we discovered that the epigenetic regulator ubiquitin-like with PHD and ring finger domain-containing protein 1 (UHRF1) is critical for regulating cell cycle progression. Upon injury, basal cells in the mouse airway rapidly induce the expression of UHRF1 in order to stimulate stem cell proliferation and tissue repair. Targeted depletion of Uhrf1 specifically in airway basal cells causes a profound defect in cell cycle progression. Consistently, cultured primary human basal cells lacking UHRF1 do not exhibit cell death or differentiation phenotypes but undergo a spontaneous program of senescence. Mechanistically, UHRF1 loss induces G1 cell cycle arrest by abrogating DNA replication factory formation as evidenced by loss of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) puncta and an inability to enter the first cell cycle. This proliferation defect is partially mediated by the p15 pathway. Overall, our study provides the first evidence of an indispensable role of UHRF1 in somatic stem cells proliferation during the process of airway regeneration.

Keywords: UHRF1; basal stem cell; proliferation; senescence.