TRF2 as a Potential Biomarker of Cellular Senescence

The accumulation of senescent cells with age is one of the causes of degenerative aging, as senescent cells behave badly, emitting proteins that harm surrounding tissues. Finding a way to clearly identify senescent cells is a necessary step on the path to a targeted treatment that can destroy them, using engineered immune cells, nanoparticles, viruses, or any of the other approaches to selective cell destruction that are presently under development. Much of the work towards this end is focused on p16, which seems promising but may or may not in the end prove to be discriminating enough. Here researchers are exploring a different marker of senescence:

While TRF2 is found at telomeres, where it plays an essential role in maintaining telomere integrity, little is known about the cellular localization of methylated TRF2. In this report, we have shown that methylated TRF2 is associated with the nuclear matrix and that this localization is largely free of human telomeres. We show that methylated TRF2 drastically alters its nuclear staining as normal human primary fibroblast cells approach and enter replicative senescence. This altered nuclear staining, which is found to be overwhelmingly associated with misshapen nuclei and abnormal nuclear matrix folds, can be suppressed by hTERT and it is barely detectable in transformed and cancer cell lines.

We find that dysfunctional telomeres and DNA damage, both of which are potent inducers of cellular senescence, promote the altered nuclear staining of methylated TRF2, which is dependent upon the ATM-mediated DNA damage response. Collectively, these results suggest that the altered nuclear staining of methylated TRF2 may represent ATM-mediated nuclear structural alteration associated with cellular senescence. Our data further imply that methylated TRF2 can serve as a potential biomarker for cellular senescence.



I read through that paper and didn't follow half of it, but as far as I can see TRF2 is not a cell surface marker.

But I don't know how much of a problem a lack of a cell surface marker in senescent cells is. It would be nice and would make things a lot easier for sure. But you also have the cancer research community who are probably going to develop means of getting inside cells and interpreting what is going on... as highly mutable cancer cells are likely to drop any cell surface markers targeted by cancer drugs under the selective pressure of those drugs.

It might be a little easier to target senescent cells rather than cancer cells in this way, as I image that senescent cells will preserve the pathways that are internally target, unlike cancer cells which constantly switch through mutation.

Posted by: Jim at April 14th, 2014 6:51 PM

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