Suppression of replicative senescence by rapamycin in rodent embryonic cells


The TOR (target of rapamycin) pathway is involved in aging in diverse organisms from yeast to mammals. We have previously demonstrated in human and rodent cells that mTOR converts stress-induced cell cycle arrest to irreversible senescence (geroconversion), whereas rapamycin decelerates or suppresses geroconversion during cell cycle arrest. Here, we investigated whether rapamycin can suppress replicative senescence of rodent cells. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) gradually acquired senescent morphology and ceased proliferation. Rapamycin decreased cellular hypertrophy, and SA-beta-Gal staining otherwise developed by 4-6 passages, but it blocked cell proliferation, masking its effects on replicative lifespan. We determined that rapamycin inhibited pS6 at 100-300 pM and inhibited proliferation with IC50 around 30 pM. At 30 pM, rapamycin partially suppressed senescence. However, the gerosuppressive effect was balanced by the cytostatic effect, making it difficult to suppress senescence without causing quiescence. We also investigated rat embryonic fibroblasts (REFs), which exhibited markers of senescence at passage 7, yet were able to slowly proliferate until 12–14 passages. REFs grew in size, acquired a large, flat cell morphology, SA-beta-Gal staining and components of DNA damage response (DDR), in particular, γH2AX/53BP1 foci. Incubation of REFs with rapamycin (from passage 7 to passage 10) allowed REFs to overcome the replicative senescence crisis. Following rapamycin treatment and removal, a fraction of proliferating REFs gradually increased and senescent phenotype disappeared completely by passage 24.

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Suppression of replicative senescence by rapamycin in rodent embryonic cells