Insights into epithelial cell senescence from transcriptome and secretome analysis of human oral keratinocytes

Extracellular Vesicles

Senescent cells produce chronic inflammation that contributes to the diseases and debilities of aging. How this process is orchestrated in epithelial cells, the origin of human carcinomas, is poorly understood. We used human normal oral keratinocytes (NOKs) to elucidate senescence programs in a prototype primary mucosal epithelial cell that senesces spontaneously. While NOKs exhibit several typical facets of senescence, they also display distinct characteristics. These include expression of p21WAF1/CIP1 at early passages, making this common marker of senescence unreliable in NOKs. Transcriptome analysis by RNA-seq revealed specific commonalities with and differences from cancer cells, explicating the tumor avoidance role of senescence. Repression of DNA repair genes that correlated with downregulation of E2F1 mRNA and protein was observed for two donors; a divergent result was seen for the third. Using proteomic profiling of soluble (non-vesicular) and extracellular vesicle (EV) associated secretions, we propose additions to the senescence associated secretory phenotype, including HSP60, which localizes to the surface of EVs. Finally, EVs from senescent NOKs activate interferon pathway signaling in THP-1 monocytes in a STING-dependent manner and associate with mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Our results highlight senescence changes in epithelial cells and how they might contribute to chronic inflammation and age-related diseases.

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Cigarette smoke (CS) represents one of the most relevant environmental risk factors for several chronic pathologies. Tissue damage caused by CS exposure is mediated, at least in part, by oxidative stress induced by its toxic and pro-oxidant components. Evidence demonstrates that extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by various cell types exposed to CS extract (CSE) are characterized by altered biochemical cargo and gained pathological properties. In the present study, we evaluated the content of oxidized proteins and phospholipid fatty acid profiles of EVs released by human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells treated with CSE. This specific molecular characterization has hitherto not been performed. After confirmation that CSE reduces viability of BEAS-2B cells and elevates intracellular ROS levels, in a dose-dependent manner, we demonstrated that 24 h exposure at 1% CSE, a concentration that only slight modifies cell viability but increases ROS levels, was able to increase carbonylated protein levels in cells and released EVs. The release of oxidatively modified proteins via EVs might represent a mechanism used by cells to remove toxic proteins in order to avoid their intracellular overloading. Moreover, 1% CSE induced only few changes in the fatty acid asset in BEAS-2B cell membrane phospholipids, whereas several rearrangements were observed in EVs released by CSE-treated cells. The impact of changes in acyl chain composition of CSE-EVs accounted for the increased saturation levels of phospholipids, a membrane parameter that might influence EV stability, uptake and, at least in part, EV-mediated biological effects. The present in vitro study adds new information concerning the biochemical composition of CSE-related EVs, useful to predict their biological effects on target cells. Furthermore, the information regarding the presence of oxidized proteins and the specific membrane features of CSE-related EVs can be useful to define the utilization of circulating EVs as marker for diagnosing of CS-induced lung damage and/or CS-related diseases.

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