Cellular Senescence in the Lung : The Central Role of Senescent Epithelial Cells
Cellular senescence is a key process in physiological dysfunction developing upon aging or following diverse stressors including ionizing radiation. It describes the state of a permanent cell cycle arrest, in which proliferating cells become resistant to growth-stimulating factors. Senescent cells differ from quiescent cells, which can re-enter the cell cycle and from finally differentiated cells: morphological and metabolic changes, restructuring of chromatin, changes in gene expressions and the appropriation of an inflammation-promoting phenotype, called the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), characterize cellular senescence. The biological role of senescence is complex, since both protective and harmful effects have been described for senescent cells. While initially described as a mechanism to avoid malignant transformation of damaged cells, senescence can even contribute to many age-related diseases, including cancer, tissue degeneration, and inflammatory diseases, particularly when senescent cells persist in damaged tissues. Due to overwhelming evidence about the important contribution of cellular senescence to the pathogenesis of different lung diseases, specific targeting of senescent cells or of pathology-promoting SASP factors has been suggested as a potential therapeutic approach. In this review, we summarize recent advances regarding the role of cellular (fibroblastic, endothelial, and epithelial) senescence in lung pathologies, with a focus on radiation-induced senescence. Among the different cells here, a central role of epithelial senescence is suggested.