• Open Access

New biomarkers probing depth of cell senescence assessed by laser scanning cytometry



The imaging analytical capabilities of laser scanning cytometer (LSC) have been used to assess morphological features considered to be typical of the senescent phenotype. The characteristic “flattening” of senescent cells was reflected by the decline in the density of staining (intensity of maximal pixel) of DNA-associated fluorescence [4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI)] paralleled by an increase in nuclear size (area). The decrease in ratio of maximal pixel to nuclear area was even more sensitive senescence biomarker than the change in maximal pixel or nuclear area, each alone. The saturation cell density at plateau phase of growth recorded by LSC was found to be dramatically decreased in cultures of senescent cells, thereby also serving as an additional marker. The induction of cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors p21WAF1 and p27KIP1 and γH2AX and activation of ATM markers of DNA damage response were measured in parallel with DNA/DAPI maximal pixel and nuclear area. These biomarker indices were expressed in quantitative terms by reporting them as a fraction of the respective controls. The effect of treatment of A549 and WI-38 cells with different concentrations of mitoxantrone (Mxt) and trichostatin A for various time periods was studied to assess the degree (depth) of cell senescence. Also assessed was the effect of 2-deoxy-D-glucose, the agent attenuating metabolic cell activity, on the depth of senescence induced by Mxt. A relationship between the ability of cells to synthesize RNA (incorporate 5-ethynyluridine) that leads to growth imbalance and induction of cell senescence was also studied. The data show that morphometric analysis of cellular attributes by LSC offers an attractive tool to detect cell senescence and measure its degree particularly in assessing effects of the factors that enhance or attenuate this process. This methodology is of importance in light of the evidence that cellular senescence is not only a biological process that is fundamental for organismal aging but also impedes formation of induced-pluripotent stem cells providing the barrier for neoplastic transformation and is the major mechanism of induction of reproductive cell death during treatment of solid tumors. © 2010 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.