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Exp Gerontol. 2001 Aug;36(8):1327-47.

Replicative senescence of human endothelial cells in vitro involves G1 arrest, polyploidization and senescence-associated apoptosis.

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  • 1Abteilung Molekular-und Zellbiologie, Institut f. Biomedizinische Alternsforschung der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Rennweg 10, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


Human ageing is characterized by a progressive loss of physiological functions, increased tissue damage and defects in various tissue renewal systems. Age-related decreases of the cellular replicative capacity can be reproduced by in vitro assays of cellular ageing. When diploid human fibroblasts reach their finite lifespan, they enter an irreversible G1 growth arrest status referred to as replicative senescence. While deregulation of programmed cell death (apoptosis) is a key feature of age-related pathology in several tissues, this is not reflected in the standard in vitro senescence model of human fibroblasts, and the role of apoptosis during cellular ageing remains unclear. We have analyzed replicative senescence of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) in vitro and found that senescent HUVEC also arrest in the G1 phase of the cell cycle but, unlike fibroblasts, accumulate with a 4N DNA content, indicative of polyploidization. In contrast to human fibroblasts, senescent endothelial cells display a considerable increase in spontaneous apoptosis. The data imply that age-dependent apoptosis is a regular feature of human endothelial cells and suggest cell type specific differences in human ageing.

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