Chromatin conformational changes at human satellite II contribute to the senescence phenotype in the tumor microenvironment

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Aug 8;120(32):e2305046120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2305046120. Epub 2023 Jul 31.


Cellular senescence and senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) in stromal cells within the tumor microenvironment promote cancer progression. Although cellular senescence has been shown to induce changes in the higher-order chromatin structure and abnormal transcription of repetitive elements in the genome, the functional significance of these changes is unclear. In this study, we examined the human satellite II (hSATII) loci in the pericentromere to understand these changes and their functional significance. Our results indicated that the hSATII loci decompact during senescence induction, resulting in new DNA-DNA interactions in distinct genomic regions, which we refer to as DRISR (Distinctive Regions Interacted with Satellite II in Replicative senescent Fibroblasts). Interestingly, decompaction occurs before the expression of hSATII RNA. The DRISR with altered chromatin accessibility was enriched for motifs associated with cellular senescence and inflammatory SASP genes. Moreover, DNA-fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis of the breast cancer tissues revealed hSATII decompaction in cancer and stromal cells. Furthermore, we reanalyzed the single-cell assay for transposase-accessible chromatin with sequencing data and found increased SASP-related gene expression in fibroblasts exhibiting hSATII decompaction in breast cancer tissues. These findings suggest that changes in the higher-order chromatin structure of the pericentromeric repetitive sequences during cellular senescence might directly contribute to the cellular senescence phenotype and cancer progression via inflammatory gene expression.

Keywords: breast cancer; cellular senescence; pericentromere; satellite II; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics
  • Chromatin* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Phenotype
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics


  • Chromatin