Accumulation of senescent cells over time contributes to aging and age-related diseases. However, what drives senescence in vivo is not clear. Here we used a genetic approach to determine if spontaneous nuclear DNA damage is sufficient to initiate senescence in mammals. Ercc1-/∆ mice with reduced expression of ERCC1-XPF endonuclease have impaired capacity to repair the nuclear genome. Ercc1-/∆ mice accumulated spontaneous, oxidative DNA damage more rapidly than wild-type (WT) mice. As a consequence, senescent cells accumulated more rapidly in Ercc1-/∆ mice compared to repair-competent animals. However, the levels of DNA damage and senescent cells in Ercc1-/∆ mice never exceeded that observed in old WT mice. Surprisingly, levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) were increased in tissues of Ercc1-/∆ mice to an extent identical to naturally-aged WT mice. Increased enzymatic production of ROS and decreased antioxidants contributed to the elevation in oxidative stress in both Ercc1-/∆ and aged WT mice. Chronic treatment of Ercc1-/∆ mice with the mitochondrial-targeted radical scavenger XJB-5-131 attenuated oxidative DNA damage, senescence and age-related pathology. Our findings indicate that nuclear genotoxic stress arises, at least in part, due to mitochondrial-derived ROS, and this spontaneous DNA damage is sufficient to drive increased levels of ROS, cellular senescence, and the consequent age-related physiological decline.
Keywords: Aging; Cellular senescence; Endogenous DNA damage; Free radicals; Genotoxic stress; Oxidative lesions; Reactive oxygen species.
Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.