The senescence of mitotic cells is hypothesized to play a causal role in organismal aging. Cultures of normal human cells become senescent in vitro as a result of a continuous decline in the mitotic fraction from cell turnover. However, one potential barrier to the evaluation of the frequency and distribution of senescent cells in tissues is the absence of a panel of robust markers for the senescent state. In parallel with an analysis of the growth kinetics of human vascular smooth muscle cells, we have undertaken transcriptomic comparisons of early- and late-passage cultures of human vascular smooth muscle cells to identify potential markers that can distinguish between senescent and growth-competent cells. A wide range of genes are upregulated at senescence in human vascular smooth muscle cells. In particular, we have identified a 12-fold upregulation of expression in the cyclin D1 message, which is reflected in a concomitant upregulation at the protein level. Quantitative cytochemical analysis of senescent and growing vascular smooth muscle cells indicates that cyclin D1 reactivity is a considerably better marker of replicative senescence than senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity. We have applied this new marker (in combination with Ki67, COMET, and TUNEL staining) to the study of human vascular smooth muscle cells treated with resveratrol, a putative anti-aging molecule known to have significant effects on cell growth.
Burton, D., Sheerin, A., Ostler, E., Smith, K., Giles, P. J., Lowe, J., Rhys-Williams, W., Kipling, D. G., & Faragher, R. (2007). Cyclin D1 over-expression permits the reproducible detection of senescent human vascular smooth muscle cells. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1119, 20-31. https://doi.org/10.1196/annals.1404.026