171 research outputs found

    Hot topics in stem cells and self-renewal: 2010

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    In many tissues, mammalian aging is associated with a decline in the replicative and functional capacity of somatic stem cells and other self-renewing compartments. Understanding the basis of this decline is a major goal of aging research. In particular, therapeutic approaches to ameliorate or reverse the age-associated loss of stem function could be of use in clinical geriatrics. Such approaches include attempts to protect stem cells from age-promoting damage, to ‘rejuvenate’ stem cells through the use of pharmacologic agents that mitigate aging-induced alterations in signaling, and to replace lost stem cells through regenerative medicine approaches. Some headway has been made in each of these arenas over the last 18 months including advances in the production of donor-specific totipotent stem cells through induced pluripotency (iPS), gains in our understanding of how tumor suppressor signaling is controlled in self-renewing compartments to regulate aging, and further demonstration of extracellular ‘milieu’ factors that perturb stem cell function with age. This period has also been marked by the recent award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for elucidation of telomeres and telomerase, a topic of critical importance to stem cell aging

    Tumor suppressor mechanisms in immune aging

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    The cancer-ageing hypothesis suggests that the activation of some tumor suppressor mechanisms beneficially prevent cancer but also untowardly promote mammalian ageing. Along these lines, activation of tumor suppressor mechanisms that inhibit the cell cycle (e.g. p16INK4a and p53) in response to DNA damage and other age-promoting stimuli have taken center stage in immune-ageing research. Immune cells are intrinsically susceptible to transforming events due to V(D)J recombination, a high rate of cellular turnover and requisite long-term self-renewal. Therefore, the DNA damage response and cell cycle regulation play a clear role in maintaining homeostasis without neoplastic progression. Here we will argue based on recent advances in our understanding of tumor suppressor mechanisms in immune cells, however, that aspects of these same beneficial pathways have the potential to induce intrinsic immune ageing

    Coming of age: molecular drivers of aging and therapeutic opportunities

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    Aging is like the weather: everyone talks about it, but no one seems to do anything about it. We believe this may soon change, as an improved understanding of the molecular and genetic pathways underlying aging suggests it is possible to therapeutically target the aging process and increase health span. This Review series focuses on fundamental cellular mechanisms of aging and their relationship to human disease. These pathways include telomere dysfunction in cellular senescence and induction of the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) in systemic aging, sirtuin family regulation of metabolism and aging-associated diseases, mitochondrial metabolism in aging, the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway and the use of mTOR inhibitors to increase longevity, the progressive decline of the immune system with age, and aging-associated changes to pancreatic islet β cells that may contribute to diabetes. Together, these articles explore pathways affecting aging and possible interventional targets to slow or delay the onset of age-related pathologies

    The Regulation of INK4/ARF in Cancer and Aging

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    Loss of the // locus on chromosome 9p21 is among the most frequent cytogenetic events in human cancer. The products of the locus—p15, p16, and ARF—play widespread and independent roles in tumor suppression. Recent data also suggest that expression of p16 induces an age-dependent decrease in the proliferative capacity of certain tissue-specific stem cells and unipotent progenitors. Here, we discuss the regulation and role of p16, ARF, and p15 in cancer and aging

    Detecting and characterizing circular RNAs

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    Circular RNA transcripts were first identified in the early 1990s but knowledge of these species has remained limited, as their study has been difficult through traditional methods of RNA analysis. Now, novel bioinformatic approaches coupled with biochemical enrichment strategies and deep sequencing have allowed comprehensive studies of circular RNA species. Recent studies have revealed thousands of endogenous circular RNAs (circRNAs) in mammalian cells, some of which are highly abundant and evolutionarily conserved. Evidence is emerging that some circRNAs might regulate microRNA (miRNA) function, and roles in transcriptional control have also been suggested. Therefore, study of this class of non-coding RNAs has potential implications for therapeutic and research applications. We believe the key future challenge to the field will be to understand the regulation and function of these unusual molecules

    Defining the toxicology of aging

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    Mammalian aging is complex and incompletely understood. While significant effort has been spent addressing the genetics or, more recently, the pharmacology of aging, the toxicology of aging has been relatively understudied. Just as an understanding of `carcinogens' has proven critical to modern cancer biology, an understanding of environmental toxicants that accelerate aging (`gerontogens') will inform gerontology. In this review, we discuss the evidence for the existence of mammalian gerontogens, as well as describe biomarkers needed to measure the age-promoting activity of a given toxicant. We focus on the effects of putative gerontogens on the in vivo accumulation of senescent cells, a characteristic feature of aging that plays a causal role in some age-associated phenotypes

    Review: A Meta-Analysis of GWAS Studies and Age-Associated Diseases

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    Genome-Wide Association studies (GWAS) offer an unbiased means to understand the genetic basis of traits by identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) linked to causal variants of complex phenotypes. GWAS have identified a host of susceptibility SNPs associated with many important human diseases, including diseases associated with aging. In an effort to understand the genetics of broad resistance to age-associated diseases (i.e. ‘wellness’), we performed a meta-analysis of human GWAS. Toward that end, we compiled 372 GWAS that identified 1,775 susceptibility SNPs to 105 unique diseases and used these SNPs to create a genomic landscape of disease susceptibility. This map was constructed by partitioning the genome into 200 kb ‘bins’ and mapping the 1,775 susceptibility SNPs to bins based on their genomic location. Investigation of these data revealed significant heterogeneity of disease association within the genome, with 92% of bins devoid of disease-associated SNPs. In contrast, 10 bins (0.06%) were significantly (pINK4/ARF (CDKN2a/b) tumor suppressor locus on 9p21.3. Provocatively, all 10 significantly enriched bins contained genes linked to either inflammation or cellular senescence pathways, and SNPs near regulators of senescence were particularly associated with disease of aging (e.g. cancer, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, glaucoma). This analysis suggests that germline genetic heterogeneity in the regulation of immunity and cellular senescence influences the human health span

    Cells exhibiting strong p16INK4a promoter activation in vivo display features of senescence

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    The activation of cellular senescence throughout the lifespan promotes tumor suppression, whereas the persistence of senescent cells contributes to aspects of aging. This theory has been limited, however, by an inability to identify and isolate individual senescent cells within an intact organism. Toward that end, we generated a murine reporter strain by “knocking-in” a fluorochrome, tandem-dimer Tomato (tdTom), into exon 1α of the p16 INK4a locus. We used this allele (p16 tdTom ) for the enumeration, isolation, and characterization of individual p16 INK4a -expressing cells (tdTom + ). The half-life of the knocked-in transcript was shorter than that of the endogenous p16 INK4a mRNA, and therefore reporter expression better correlated with p16 INK4a promoter activation than p16 INK4a transcript abundance. The frequency of tdTom + cells increased with serial passage in cultured murine embryo fibroblasts from p16 tdTom/+ mice. In adult mice, tdTom + cells could be readily detected at low frequency in many tissues, and the frequency of these cells increased with aging. Using an in vivo model of peritoneal inflammation, we compared the phenotype of cells with or without activation of p16 INK4a and found that tdTom + macrophages exhibited some features of senescence, including reduced proliferation, senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-β-gal) activation, and increased mRNA expression of a subset of transcripts encoding factors involved in SA-secretory phenotype (SASP). These results indicate that cells harboring activation of the p16 INK4a promoter accumulate with aging and inflammation in vivo, and display characteristics of senescence

    INK4/ARF Transcript Expression Is Associated with Chromosome 9p21 Variants Linked to Atherosclerosis

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    Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have linked common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on chromosome 9p21 near the INK4/ARF (CDKN2A/B) tumor suppressor locus with risk of atherosclerotic diseases and type 2 diabetes mellitus. To explore the mechanism of this association, we investigated whether expression of proximate transcripts (p16(INK4a), p15(INK4b), ARF, ANRIL and MTAP) correlate with genotype of representative 9p21 SNPs.We analyzed expression of 9p21 transcripts in purified peripheral blood T-cells (PBTL) from 170 healthy donors. Samples were genotyped for six selected disease-related SNPs spanning the INK4/ARF locus. Correlations among these variables were determined by univariate and multivariate analysis. Significantly reduced expression of all INK4/ARF transcripts (p15(INK4b), p16(INK4a), ARF and ANRIL) was found in PBTL of individuals harboring a common SNP (rs10757278) associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and aortic aneurysm. Expression of MTAP was not influenced by rs10757278 genotype. No association of any these transcripts was noted with five other tested 9p21 SNPs.Genotypes of rs10757278 linked to increased risk of atherosclerotic diseases are also associated with decreased expression in PBTL of the INK4/ARF locus, which encodes three related anti-proliferative transcripts of known importance in tumor suppression and aging

    Metastasis in an orthotopic murine model of melanoma is independent of RAS/RAF mutation

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    Melanoma is the most lethal skin tumor, in large part because of a propensity for early metastasis. Good models of this most clinically relevant feature of melanoma are lacking. Here we report the development of an in vivo model of metastasis that relies on orthotopic injection of GFP-tagged lines in immunodeficient mice, serial intravital imaging of tumor progression and quantification of distant spread by 2-photon laser scanning microscopy, immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR analysis. Using this system, we report an assessment of the in vivo growth and metastatic properties of 11 well-characterized human melanoma cell lines. A subset of lines demonstrated rapid in vivo growth with invasion of host vasculature and distant seeding of viscera in this system. The ability to form metastasis in vivo did not correlate with 3D collagen invasion in vitro. Surprisingly, similar lines in terms of molecular genetic events differed markedly in their propensity to metastasize to distant organs such as brain and lung. In particular, two lines harboring B-RAF mutation and high levels of phosphorylated ERK and AKT (pERK and pAKT) were reproducibly unable to form tumors after orthotopic injection. Likewise, two previously identified RAS/RAF wild-type “epithelial-like” lines that do not have elevated pERK, pAKT or express TWIST1 mRNA still demonstrated a pronounced ability for orthotopic growth and metastatic spread. All the metastatic cell lines in this model showed increased NEDD9 expression, but NEDD9 lentiviral overexpression did not convey a metastatic phenotype on non-metastatic cells. These data suggest that melanoma metastasis is a molecularly heterogeneous process that may not require epidermal-to-mesenchymal transition or ERK activation, although both may facilitate the process
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