Ageing is the biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Cellular senescence, a process driven in part by telomere shortening, has been implicated in age-related tissue dysfunction. Here, we address the question of how senescence is induced in rarely dividing/post-mitotic cardiomyocytes and investigate whether clearance of senescent cells attenuates age-related cardiac dysfunction. During ageing, human and murine cardiomyocytes acquire a senescent-like phenotype characterised by persistent DNA damage at telomere regions that can be driven by mitochondrial dysfunction and crucially can occur independently of cell division and telomere length. Length-independent telomere damage in cardiomyocytes activates the classical senescence-inducing pathways, p21 CIP and p16 INK4a , and results in a non-canonical senescence-associated secretory phenotype, which is pro-fibrotic and pro-hypertrophic. Pharmacological or genetic clearance of senescent cells in mice alleviates detrimental features of cardiac ageing, including myocardial hypertrophy and fibrosis. Our data describe a mechanism by which senescence can occur and contribute to age-related myocardial dysfunction and in the wider setting to ageing in post-mitotic tissues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)