Molecular Aspects of Senescence and Organismal Ageing-DNA Damage Response, Telomeres, Inflammation and Chromatin

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jan 8;22(2):590. doi: 10.3390/ijms22020590.


Cells can become senescent in response to stress. Senescence is a process characterised by a stable proliferative arrest. Sometimes it can be beneficial-for example, it can suppress tumour development or take part in tissue repair. On the other hand, studies show that it is also involved in the ageing process. DNA damage response (DDR) is triggered by DNA damage or telomere shortening during cell division. When left unresolved, it may lead to the activation of senescence. Senescent cells secrete certain proteins in larger quantities. This phenomenon is referred to as senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). SASP can induce senescence in other cells; evidence suggests that overabundance of senescent cells contributes to ageing. SASP proteins include proinflammatory cytokines and metalloproteinases, which degrade the extracellular matrix. Shortening of telomeres is another feature associated with organismal ageing. Older organisms have shorter telomeres. Restoring telomerase activity in mice not only slowed but also partially reversed the symptoms of ageing. Changes in chromatin structure during senescence include heterochromatin formation or decondensation and loss of H1 histones. During organismal ageing, cells can experience heterochromatin loss, DNA demethylation and global histone loss. Cellular and organismal ageing are both complex processes with many aspects that are often related. The purpose of this review is to bring some of these aspects forward and provide details regarding them.

Keywords: DNA damage response; SASP; ageing; chromatin; inflammation; senescence; telomeres.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Damage*
  • Heterochromatin / genetics
  • Heterochromatin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Telomere Shortening / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • Heterochromatin