Numerous studies have described the process of senescence associated with accumulation of oxidative damage, mutations and decline in proliferative potential. Although the changes observed in senescent cells are likely to result in significant phenotypic alterations, the studies on consequences of endothelial senescence, especially in relation to aging-associated diseases, are scarce. We have analyzed effects of senescence on the functions of endothelial cells relevant to the development of atherosclerosis including angiogenesis, adhesion, apoptosis and inflammation. In the course of progressing through the passages, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) displayed significant increase in size (+36% passage 12 vs. passage 4 , p<0.001) and reduction in both basal and VEGF-stimulated tube formation. The analysis of a scavenger receptor LOX-1, a key molecule implicated in atherogenesis, revealed a significant decline of its message (mRNA) and protein content in senescent endothelial cells (−33%) and in aortas of 50 wk (vs. 5 wk) old mice (all p<0.01). These effects were accompanied by a marked reduction of the basal expression of VCAM-1 and ICAM-1. Compared to early cultures, late passage HUVECs also exhibited nuclear translocation of NF-κB (p65) and reciprocal shifts in BAX and BCL2 protein content resulting in almost 2-fold increase in BAX/BCL2 ratio and 3-fold increase in apoptotic response to TNFα exposure (p<0.04). These changes in senescent endothelial cells are suggestive of aberrant responses to physiological stimuli resulting in a less permissive environment for tissue remodeling and progression of diseases requiring angiogenesis and cell adhesion in elderly, possibly, mediated by LOX-1
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