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Age (Dordr). 2012 Aug;34(4):783-94. doi: 10.1007/s11357-011-9276-7. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Copper ability to induce premature senescence in human fibroblasts.

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Faculty of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Porto, Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, Oporto, Portugal.


Human diploid fibroblasts (HDFs) exposed to subcytotoxic concentrations of oxidative or stressful agents, such as hydrogen peroxide, tert-butylhydroperoxide, or ethanol, undergo stress-induced premature senescence (SIPS). This condition is characterized by the appearance of replicative senescence biomarkers such as irreversible growth arrest, increase in senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA β-gal) activity, altered cell morphology, and overexpression of several senescence-associated genes. Copper is an essential trace element known to accumulate with ageing and to be involved in the pathogenesis of some age-related disorders. Past studies using either yeast or human cellular models of ageing provided evidence in favor of the role of intracellular copper as a longevity modulator. In the present study, copper ability to cause the appearance of senescent features in HDFs was assessed. WI-38 fibroblasts exposed to a subcytotoxic concentration of copper sulfate presented inhibition of cell proliferation, cell enlargement, increased SA β-gal activity, and mRNA overexpression of several senescence-associated genes such as p21, apolipoprotein J (ApoJ), fibronectin, transforming growth factor β-1 (TGF β1), insulin growth factor binding protein 3, and heme oxygenase 1. Western blotting results confirmed enhanced intracellular p21, ApoJ, and TGF β1 in copper-treated cells. Thus, similar to other SIPS-inducing agents, HDF exposure to subcytotoxic concentration of copper results in premature senescence. Further studies will unravel molecular mechanisms and the biological meaning of copper-associated senescence and lead to a better understanding of copper-related disorder establishment and progression.

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