Characterization of the absence of an unique DNA-binding protein in senescent but not in their young growing and nongrowing counterparts provides the means to mark the final stage of the cellular aging process.
In senescent fibroblasts, the incapability of cell replication is permanent, and may involve the irreversible loss of gene expressions potentiating the engagement in DNA replication. The initial attempt is to identify gene products that are permanently lost in irreversibly growth-arrested cells. In this article, we report the success in identifying a DNA-associated S6 antigen found in the nuclei of growing and growth-arrested young cells, but not in the nuclei of their senescent counterparts. The presence of the S6 antigen is uniform throughout the nucleoplasm, except in the regions of the nucleoli, and found to be associated with condensed chromosomes in mitotic cells. Treatment with RNase does not abolish the antibody staining activity in the nuclei, while treatment with DNase does remove the activity. Equal intensity of S6 antibody staining is observed in transformed, growing, and contact-inhibited young fibroblasts. Significant reduced level of S6 antibody staining activity is found in the nuclei of senescent fibroblasts, indicating the loss of the expression of this protein during cellular aging process. Immunoblotting assay shows that the S6 antigen is of 50 kDa and with a possibility of a 100 kDa as a dimeric precursor. Our results suggests that a permanent turning off of unique gene expression is associated with the onset of senescence or terminal differentiation, and this hypothesis is supported by the characterization of S6 antigen's absence in in vitro-aged fibroblasts.
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