Author(s): Schuler N, Rbe CE
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Abstract Accumulation of DNA damage leading to stem cell exhaustion has been proposed to be a principal mechanism of aging. Using 53BP1-foci as a marker for DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) in mouse epidermis were analyzed for age-related DNA damage response (DDR). We observed increasing amounts of 53BP1-foci during the natural aging process independent of telomere shortening and after protracted low-dose radiation, suggesting substantial accumulation of DSBs in HFSCs. Electron microscopy combined with immunogold-labeling showed multiple small 53BP1 clusters diffusely distributed throughout the highly compacted heterochromatin of aged HFSCs, but single large 53BP1 clusters in irradiated HFSCs. These remaining 53BP1 clusters did not colocalize with core components of non-homologous end-joining, but with heterochromatic histone modifications. Based on these results we hypothesize that these lesions were not persistently unrepaired DSBs, but may reflect chromatin rearrangements caused by the repair or misrepair of DSBs. Flow cytometry showed increased activation of repair proteins and damage-induced chromatin modifications, triggering apoptosis and cellular senescence in irradiated, but not in aged HFSCs. These results suggest that accumulation of DNA damage-induced chromatin alterations, whose structural dimensions reflect the complexity of the initial genotoxic insult, may lead to different DDR events, ultimately determining the biological outcome of HFSCs. Collectively, our findings support the hypothesis that aging might be largely the remit of structural changes to chromatin potentially leading to epigenetically induced transcriptional deregulation.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research