A senescence bystander effect in human lung fibroblasts

David W. Waters, Michael Schuliga, Prabuddha S. Pathinayake, Lan Wei, Hui Ying Tan, Kaj E.C. Blokland, Jade Jaffar, Glen P. Westall, Janette K. Burgess, Cecilia M. Prêle, Steven E. Mutsaers, Christopher L. Grainge, Darryl A. Knight

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic disease characterised by a dense fibrosing of the lung parenchyma. An association between IPF and cellular senescence is well established and several studies now describe a higher abundance of senescent fibroblasts and epithelial cells in the lungs of IPF patients compared with age-matched controls. The cause of this abnormal accumulation of senescent cells is unknown but evidence suggests that, once established, senescence can be transferred from senescent to non-senescent cells. In this study, we investigated whether senescent human lung fibroblasts (LFs) and alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) could induce a senescent-like phenotype in “naïve” non-senescent LFs in vitro. Primary cultures of LFs from adult control donors (Ctrl-LFs) with a low baseline of senescence were exposed to conditioned medium (CM) from: (i) Ctrl-LFs induced to become senescent using H2 O2 or etoposide; (ii) LFs derived from IPF patients (IPF-LFs) with a high baseline of senescence; or (iii) senescence-induced A549 cells, an AEC line. Additionally, ratios of non-senescent Ctrl-LFs and senescence-induced Ctrl-LFs (100:0, 0:100, 50:50, 90:10, 99:1) were co-cultured and their effect on induction of senescence measured. We demonstrated that exposure of naïve non-senescent Ctrl-LFs to CM from senescence-induced Ctrl-LFs and AECs and IPF-LFs increased the markers of senescence including nuclear localisation of phosphorylated-H2A histone family member X (H2AXγ) and expression of p21, IL-6 and IL-8 in Ctrl-LFs. Additionally, co-cultures of non-senescent and senescence-induced Ctrl-LFs induced a senescent-like phenotype in the non-senescent cells. These data suggest that the phenomenon of “senescence-induced senescence” can occur in vitro in primary cultures of human LFs, and provides a possible explanation for the abnormal abundance of senescent cells in the lungs of IPF patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1162
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


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