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Transcriptional repression of DNA repair genes is a hallmark and a cause of cellular senescence.
Collin G, Huna A, Warnier M, Flaman JM, Bernard D
Cellular senescence response is (i) activated by numerous stresses, (ii) is characterized by a stable proliferation arrest, and (iii) by a set of specific features. Timely regulated senescence is thought to be beneficial, whereas chronic senescence such as during normal or premature aging is deleterious as it favors most, if not all, age-related diseases. In this study, using in-house or publicly available microarray analyses of transcriptomes of senescent cells, as well as analyses of the level of expression of several DNA repair genes by RT-qPCR and immunoblot, we show that repression of DNA repair gene expression is associated with cellular senescence. This repression is mediated by the RB/E2F pathway and it may play a causal role in senescence induction, as single DNA repair gene repression by siRNA induced features of premature senescence. Importantly, activating RB independently of direct DNA damage also results in repression of DNA repair genes and in the subsequent induction of DNA damage and senescence. The dogma is that DNA damage observed during cellular senescence is directly provoked by DNA lesions following genotoxic attack (UV, IR, and ROS) or by induction of replicative stress upon oncogenic activation. Our in vitro results support a largely unsuspected contribution of the loss of DNA repair gene expression in the induction and the accumulation of the DNA damage observed in most, if not all, kinds of cellular senescence, and thus in the induction of cellular senescence. Further demonstration using in vivo models will help to generalize our findings.