RNA sequencing identifies common pathways between cigarette smoke exposure and replicative senescence in human airway epithelia

BMC Genomics. 2019 Jan 9;20(1):22. doi: 10.1186/s12864-018-5409-z.


Background: Aging is affected by genetic and environmental factors, and cigarette smoking is strongly associated with accumulation of senescent cells. In this study, we wanted to identify genes that may potentially be beneficial for cell survival in response to cigarette smoke and thereby may contribute to development of cellular senescence.

Results: Primary human bronchial epithelial cells from five healthy donors were cultured, treated with or without 1.5% cigarette smoke extract (CSE) for 24 h or were passaged into replicative senescence. Transcriptome changes were monitored using RNA-seq in CSE and non-CSE exposed cells and those passaged into replicative senescence. We found that, among 1534 genes differentially regulated during senescence and 599 after CSE exposure, 243 were altered in both conditions, representing strong enrichment. Pathways and gene sets overrepresented in both conditions belonged to cellular processes that regulate reactive oxygen species, proteasome degradation, and NF-κB signaling.

Conclusions: Our results offer insights into gene expression responses during cellular aging and cigarette smoke exposure, and identify potential molecular pathways that are altered by cigarette smoke and may also promote airway epithelial cell senescence.

Keywords: Cigarette smoke; Primary human bronchial epithelial cells; RNA-seq; Replicative senescence.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchi / drug effects
  • Bronchi / metabolism*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Cigarette Smoking / adverse effects
  • Cigarette Smoking / genetics*
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • NF-kappa B
  • Reactive Oxygen Species