Purpose: Radiation-induced senescence is characterized by profound changes in chromatin organization with the formation of Senescence-Associated-Heterochromatin-Foci (SAHF) and DNA-Segments-with-Chromatin-Alterations-Reinforcing-Senescence (DNA-SCARS). Importantly, senescent cells also secrete complex combinations of pro-inflammatory factors, referred as Senescence-Associated-Secretory-Phenotype (SASP). Here, we analyzed the epigenetic mechanism of histone variant H2A.J in establishing radiation-induced senescence.
Experimental design: Primary and genetically-modified lung fibroblasts with down- or up-regulated H2A.J expression were exposed to ionizing radiation and were analyzed for the formation of SAHF and DNA-SCARS by immunofluorescence microscopy. Dynamic changes in chromatin organization and accessibility, transcription factor recruitment, and transcriptome signatures were mapped by ATAC-seq and RNA-seq analysis. The secretion of SASP factors and potential bystander effects were analyzed by ELISA and RT-PCR. Lung tissue of mice exposed to different doses were analyzed by the digital image analysis of H2A.J-immunohistochemistry.
Results: Differential incorporation of H2A.J has profound effects on higher-order chromatin organization and on establishing the epigenetic state of senescence. Integrative analyses of ATAC-seq and RNA-seq datasets indicate that H2A.J-associated changes in chromatin accessibility of regulatory regions decisively modulates transcription factor recruitment and inflammatory gene expression, resulting in an altered SASP secretome. In lung parenchyma, pneumocytes show dose-dependent H2A.J expression in response to radiation-induced DNA damage, therefore contributing to pro-inflammatory tissue reactions.
Conclusions: The fine-tuned incorporation of H2A.J defines the epigenetic landscape for driving the senescence programme in response to radiation-induced DNA damage. Deregulated H2A.J deposition affects chromatin remodeling, transcription factor recruitment, and the pro-inflammatory secretome. Our findings provide new mechanistic insights into DNA-damage triggered epigenetic mechanisms governing the biological processes of radiation-induced injury.
Keywords: DNA-Segments with Chromatin Alterations Reinforcing Senescence (DNA-SCARS); Senescence-Associated Heterochromatin Foci (SAHF); Senescence-Associated Secretory Phenotype (SASP); histone variant H2A.J; ionizing radiation; radiation-induced senescence.