Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Inclusion of vitamin E (DL-alpha-tocopherol) in the culture medium for human diploid cells greatly prolongs their in vitro lifespan. The addition of 100 mug of DL-alpha-tocopherol per ml of medium has allowed us to culture WI-38 cells for more than 100 population doublings to date. (These cells normally have an in vitro lifespan of 50 +/- 10 population doublings.) Cells at the 100th population doubling have a normal diploid karyotype, appear to behave in all other respects like young WI-38 cells, and are still actively dividing.
It has been shown that human diploid cells from various donor ages can be arrested in an essentially nonmitotic state by reducing the serum concentration of the incubation medium from 10 to 0.5 percent. Cells incubated at this serum level maintained the population distribution that was present when the cells reached confluency. The population, which has 90 percent of the cells in the G1 phase of the division cycle, was not static and exhibited a low level of mitotic activity with prolonged interdivision times.
Various concentrations of oxygen were used to determine the optimum culture medium PO2 for survival and proliferation of attached human and mouse fibroblasts grown from different inoculum sizes. When T-15 flasks were seeded with less than or equal to 2 X 10(4) cells (less than or equal to 1.3 X 10(3) cells/cm2), the highest plating efficiencies and cell yields were obtained with a culture medium PO2 of 40-60 mm Hg.
Human diploid fibroblasts, strain MRC-5, were sequentially irradiated with 60Co gamma rays at intervals during their in vitro lifespan. The results indicate that 3 or 6 doses of 1 Gy can increase lifespan, and the same was true for cells treated with 3 doses of 3 Gy. Higher doses (5 x 3 Gy) did reduce growth potential, suggesting either that mid-late passage cells become more sensitive to radiation, or that doses beyond a given threshold reduce population lifespan by multiple cellular hits. The life extension induced by gamma rays might be due to an induced hypermethylation of DNA.
SV40 T-antigen-expressing human cells generally have an extension of lifespan until a period called "crisis" begins. On rare occasions a clone of cells emerges from the population in crisis and gives rise to an immortalized cell line. The present study compares the frequency of immortalization of cells from two different human lineages, lung fibroblasts and mammary epithelial cells.
We have examined the effects of the naturally occurring dipeptide carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) on the growth, morphology, and lifespan of cultured human diploid fibroblasts. With human foreskin cells, HFF-1, and fetal lung cells, MRC-5, we have shown that carnosine at high concentrations (20-50 mM) in standard medium retards senescence and rejuvenates senescent cultures. These late-passage cultures preserve a nonsenescent morphology in the presence of carnosine, in comparison to the senescent morphology first described by Hayflick and Moorhead.
Telomere loss has been proposed as a mechanism for counting cell divisions during aging in normal somatic cells. How such a mitotic clock initiates the intracellular signalling events that culminate in G1 cell cycle arrest and senescence to restrict the lifespan of normal human cells is not known. We investigated the possibility that critically short telomere length activates a DNA damage response pathway involving p53 and p21(WAF1) in aging cells.
Cell cycle checkpoints and tumor suppressor gene functions appear to be required for the maintenance of a stable genome in proliferating cells. In this study chromosomal destabilization was monitored in relation to telomere structure, lifespan control and G2 checkpoint function. Replicative senescence was inactivated in secondary cultures of human skin fibroblasts by expressing the human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16) E6 oncoprotein to inactivate p53. Chromosome aberrations were enumerated during in vitro aging of isogenic control (F5neo) and HPV-16E6-expressing (F5E6) fibroblasts.
Transfection of nearly senesced human fibroblasts with plasmids encoding HPV16 E6 protein or dominant-negative p53 mutants greatly increased their colony-forming ability. Isolated colonies with these plasmids showed extension of lifespan compared to those with a control plasmid. These data demonstrate that p53 plays a major role in senescence in normal human fibroblasts.
Normal human fibroblasts in culture have a limited lifespan, ending in replicative senescence. Introduction of SV40 sequences encoding large T antigen and small t antigen into pre-senescent cells results in an extension of lifespan for an additional 20-30 population doublings.