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PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21397. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021397. Epub 2011 Jun 21.

Wnt/β-catenin signaling induces the aging of mesenchymal stem cells through the DNA damage response and the p53/p21 pathway.

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Department of Anatomy and Histology and Embryology, Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.


Recent studies have demonstrated the importance of cellular extrinsic factors in the aging of adult stem cells. However, the effects of an aged cell-extrinsic environment on mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) aging and the factors involved remain unclear. In the current study, we examine the effects of old rat serum (ORS) on the aging of MSCs, and explore the effects and mechanisms of Wnt/β-catenin signaling on MSC aging induced by ORS treatment. Senescence-associated changes in the cells are examined with SA-β-galactosidase staining and ROS staining. The proliferation ability is detected by MTT assay. The surviving and apoptotic cells are determined using AO/EB staining. The results suggest that ORS promotes MSC senescence and reduces the proliferation and survival of cells. The immunofluorescence staining shows that the expression of β-catenin increases in MSCs of old rats. To identify the effects of Wnt/β-catenin signaling on MSC aging induced with ORS, the expression of β-catenin, GSK-3β, and c-myc are detected. The results show that the Wnt/β-catenin signaling in the cells is activated after ORS treatment. Then we examine the aging, proliferation, and survival of MSCs after modulating Wnt/β-catenin signaling. The results indicate that the senescence and dysfunction of MSCs in the medium containing ORS is reversed by the Wnt/β-catenin signaling inhibitor DKK1 or by β-catenin siRNA. Moreover, the expression of γ-H2A.X, a molecular marker of DNA damage response, p16(INK4a), p53, and p21 is increased in senescent MSCs induced with ORS, and is also reversed by DKK1 or by β-catenin siRNA. In summary, our study indicates the Wnt/β-catenin signaling may play a critical role in MSC aging induced by the serum of aged animals and suggests that the DNA damage response and p53/p21 pathway may be the main mediators of MSC aging induced by excessive activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling.

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