Senescence-associated microRNAs target cell cycle regulatory genes in normal human lung fibroblasts
Senescence recapitulates the ageing process at the cell level. A senescent cell stops dividing and exits the cell cycle. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) acting as master regulators of transcription, have been implicated in senescence. In the current study we investigated and compared the expression of miRNAs in young versus senescent human fibroblasts (HDFs), and analysed the role of mRNAs expressed in replicative senescent HFL-1 HDFs. Cell cycle analysis confirmed that HDFs accumulated in G1/S cell cycle phase. Nanostring analysis of isolated miRNAs from young and senescent HFL-1 showed that a distinct set of 15 miRNAs were significantly up-regulated in senescent cells including hsa-let-7d-5p, hsa-let-7e-5p, hsa-miR-23a-3p, hsa-miR-34a-5p, hsa-miR-122-5p, hsa-miR-125a-3p, hsa-miR-125a-5p, hsa-miR-125b-5p, hsa-miR-181a-5p, hsa-miR-221-3p, hsa-miR-222-3p, hsa-miR-503-5p, hsa-miR-574-3p, hsa-miR-574-5p and hsa-miR-4454. Importantly, pathway analysis of miRNA target genes down-regulated during replicative senescence in a public RNA-seq data set revealed a significant high number of genes regulating cell cycle progression, both G1/S and G2/M cell cycle phase transitions and telomere maintenance. The reduced expression of selected miRNA targets, upon replicative and oxidative-stress induced senescence, such as the cell cycle effectors E2F1, CcnE, Cdc6, CcnB1 and Cdc25C was verified at the protein and/or RNA levels. Induction of G1/S cell cycle phase arrest and down-regulation of cell cycle effectors correlated with the up-regulation of miR-221 upon both replicative and oxidative stress-induced senescence. Transient expression of miR-221/222 in HDFs promoted the accumulation of HDFs in G1/S cell cycle phase. We propose that miRNAs up-regulated during replicative senescence may act in concert to induce cell cycle phase arrest and telomere erosion, establishing a senescent phenotype.