Dissecting primary and secondary senescence to enable new senotherapeutic strategies

Ageing Res Rev. 2021 Sep:70:101412. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2021.101412. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Cellular senescence is a state of stable cell cycle arrest that is known to be elicited in response to different stresses or forms of damage. Senescence limits the replication of old, damaged, and precancerous cells in the short-term but is implicated in diseases and debilities of aging due to loss of regenerative reserve and secretion of a complex combination of factors called the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). More recently, investigators have discovered that senescent cells induced by these methods (what we term "primary senescent cells") are also capable of inducing other non-senescent cells to undergo senescence - a phenomenon we call "secondary senescence." Secondary senescence has been demonstrated to occur via two broad types of mechanisms. First, factors in the SASP have been shown to be involved in spreading senescence; we call this phenomenon "paracrine senescence." Second, primary senescent cells can induce senescence via an additional group of mechanisms involving cell-to-cell contacts of different types; we term this phenomenon "juxtacrine senescence." "Secondary senescence" in our definition is thus the overarching term for both paracrine and juxtacrine senescence together. By allowing cells that are inherently small in number and incapable of replication to increase in number and possibly spread to anatomically distant locations, secondary senescence allows an initially small number of senescent cells to contribute further to age-related pathologies. We propose that understanding how primary and secondary senescent cells differ from each other and the mechanisms of their spread will enable the development of new rejuvenation therapies to target different senescent cell populations and interrupt their spread, extending human health- and potentially lifespan.

Keywords: Aging; Bystander; Juxtacrine; Paracrine; SASP; Secondary senescence; Senescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Cellular Senescence*
  • Humans
  • Rejuvenation