Neutrophils induce paracrine telomere dysfunction and senescence in ROS-dependent manner

EMBO J. 2021 May 3;40(9):e106048. doi: 10.15252/embj.2020106048. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Cellular senescence is characterized by an irreversible cell cycle arrest as well as a pro-inflammatory phenotype, thought to contribute to aging and age-related diseases. Neutrophils have essential roles in inflammatory responses; however, in certain contexts their abundance is associated with a number of age-related diseases, including liver disease. The relationship between neutrophils and cellular senescence is not well understood. Here, we show that telomeres in non-immune cells are highly susceptible to oxidative damage caused by neighboring neutrophils. Neutrophils cause telomere dysfunction both in vitro and ex vivo in a ROS-dependent manner. In a mouse model of acute liver injury, depletion of neutrophils reduces telomere dysfunction and senescence. Finally, we show that senescent cells mediate the recruitment of neutrophils to the aged liver and propose that this may be a mechanism by which senescence spreads to surrounding cells. Our results suggest that interventions that counteract neutrophil-induced senescence may be beneficial during aging and age-related disease.

Keywords: aging; neutrophils; senescence; telomeres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Lung Injury / chemically induced
  • Acute Lung Injury / immunology*
  • Acute Lung Injury / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carbon Tetrachloride / adverse effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neutrophils / cytology*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Paracrine Communication
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Telomere Shortening*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Carbon Tetrachloride