Cell senescence and DNA methylation

This 2018 Baltimore cell study found:

“Based on similarities in overall methylation patterns in replicative senescence and cancers, it is hypothesized that tumor-promoting DNA methylation in cancers derives from cells escaping senescence.

We show that the tumor-associated methylation changes evolve independently of senescence and are pro-survival events with functional implications contrasting that in senescence.

In our analyses, although overall global gains and losses in DNA methylation are similar, at individual genomic regions the methylation patterns are very different for senescence versus transformation.”

I hesitated to use the study’s main graphic:
because the “Stochastic” labeling of the upper branch didn’t represent the vector’s meaning. The In Brief and the Summary sections contributed to the misrepresentation by stating:

“transformation-associated methylation changes arise stochastically..”

which wasn’t the purpose of the study:

“Our data outlined in the above sections strongly suggest against this senescence bypass hypothesis..”

although the experimental design and methods evoked randomness:

“Immortalization on the path to malignant transformation involves stochastic epigenetic patterns from which cells contributing to transformation may evolve.”

The graphic’s upper branch vector represented the cells’ evolutionary responses. The Significance section best characterized what the study found:

“tumor-associated methylation changes evolve independently of senescence and are pro-survival events..”

Would anyone at John Hopkins argue, as the graphic’s upper branch labeling suggested, that cellular aging is a predominantly random process?

Epigenetics research and evolution promoted understanding the graphic’s upper branch vector:

“Evolution is an ongoing set of iterative interactions between organisms and the environment..Directionality is introduced by the agency of organisms themselves.”

The current study provided another data point about the utility of convenient but non-etiologic, inconsequential measurements of global methylation:

“..although overall global gains and losses in DNA methylation are similar, at individual genomic regions the methylation patterns are very different..”

The current study was congruent with the below finding of Using an epigenetic clock to distinguish cellular aging from senescence regarding the differentiation of cellular aging from senescence:

“The fact that maintenance of telomere length by telomerase did not prevent cellular ageing defines the singular role of telomeres as that of a means by which cells restrict their proliferation to a certain number; which was the function originally ascribed to it. Cellular ageing on the other hand proceeds regardless of telomere length.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1535610818300084 “DNA Methylation Patterns Separate Senescence from Transformation Potential and Indicate Cancer Risk” (not freely available)


The influence of donor age on induced pluripotent stem cell functionality

This 2018 German review subject was the influence of donor age on induced pluripotent stem cell functionality:

“Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) avoid many of the restrictions that hamper the application of human embryonic stem cells..Also, the donor’s clinical phenotype is often known when working with iPSCs.

Typical signs of cellular ageing are reverted in the process of iPSC reprogramming, and iPSCs from older donors do not show diminished differentiation potential nor do iPSC-derived cells from older donors suffer early senescence or show functional impairments when compared with those from younger donors.”

The reviewers discussed limitations in the current research:

  • “Mutations in nuclear and mitochondrial DNA acquired over the donor’s lifespan and during the reprogramming process might persist.
  • It is not yet known how strongly the variable genetic background of individual donors affects the reprogramming process and the quality of resulting iPSCs.
  • A low number of donors and cell lines is a general problem in almost all research articles on the topic of iPSCs. This combined with the lack of a standardised protocol for optimal iPSC derivation, culture and quality control makes any comparison between different publications very difficult if not impossible. Especially, since it has been shown that many factors influence the quality of iPSCs and iPSC-derived cells, such as time and cell type used for reprogramming, time in culture, or reprogramming modality.
  • A problem lies in the retention of tissue-specific epigenetic alterations which in part could be caused by incomplete reprogramming and might be improved by vigorous quality testing and careful selection of iPSC colonies during reprogramming and passaging.
  • The question regarding tumourigenicity will most likely only be answered satisfactorily once the differentiation methods are further improved, iPSC-derived cell-based therapies have made their way further into clinical practice, and patients receiving treatments have been observed for multiple years.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5790033/pdf/fcvm-05-00004.pdf “Age Is Relative-Impact of Donor Age on Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cell Functionality”

Sex-specific impacts of childhood trauma

This 2018 Canadian paper reviewed evidence for potential sex-specific differences in the lasting impacts of childhood trauma:

“This paper will provide a contextualized summary of neuroendocrine, neuroimaging, and behavioral epigenetic studies on biological sex differences contributing to internalizing psychopathology, specifically posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, among adults with a history of childhood abuse.

Given the breadth of this review, we limit our definition [of] trauma to intentional and interpersonal experiences (i.e., childhood abuse and neglect) in childhood. Psychopathological outcomes within this review will be limited to commonly explored internalizing disorders, specifically PTSD and depression.

Despite the inconsistent and limited findings in this review, a critical future consideration will be whether the biological effects of early life stress can be reversed in the face of evidence-based behavioral interventions, and furthermore, whether these changes may relate to potentially concurrent reductions in susceptibility to negative mental health outcomes.”

It was refreshing to read a paper where the reviewers often interrupted the reader’s train of thought to interject contradictory evidence, and display the scientific method. For example, immediately after citing a trio of well-respected studies that found:

“Psychobiological research on relationships linking impaired HPA axis functioning and adult internalizing disorders are suggestive of lower basal and afternoon levels of plasma cortisol in PTSD phenotype.”

the reviewers stated:

“However, a recent meta-analysis suggests no association between basal cortisol with PTSD.”

and effectively ended the cortisol discussion with:

“Findings are dependent upon variance in extenuating factors, including but not limited to, different measurements of:

  • early adversity,
  • age of onset,
  • basal cortisol levels, as well as
  • trauma forms and subtypes, and
  • presence and severity of psychopathology symptomology.”

The reviewers also provided good summaries of aspects of the reviewed subject. For example, the “Serotonergic system genetic research, childhood trauma and risk of psychopathology” subsection ended with:

“Going forward, studies must explore the longitudinal effects of early trauma on methylation as well as comparisons of multiple loci methylation patterns and interactions to determine the greatest factors contributing to health outcomes. Only then, can we start to consider the role of sex in moderating risk.”

I don’t agree with the cause-ignoring approach of the behavior therapy mentioned in the review. Does it make sense to approach one category of symptoms:

“the biological effects of early life stress..”

by treating another category of symptoms?

“can be reversed in the face of evidence-based behavioral interventions..”

But addressing symptoms instead of the sometimes-common causes that generate both biological and behavioral effects continues to be the direction.

After receiving short-term symptom relief, wouldn’t people prefer treatments of originating causes so that their various symptoms don’t keep bubbling up? Why wouldn’t research paradigms be aligned accordingly?

I was encouraged by the intergenerational and transgenerational focus of one of the reviewer’s research:

“Dr. Gonzalez’s current research focus is to understand the mechanisms by which early experiences are transmitted across generations and how preventive interventions may affect this transmission.”

This line of hypotheses requires detailed histories, and should uncover causes for many effects that researchers may otherwise shrug off as unexplainable individual differences. Its aims include the preconception through prenatal periods where the largest epigenetic effects on an individual are found. There are fewer opportunities for effective “preventive interventions” in later life compared with these early periods.

Unlike lab rats, women and men can reach some degree of honesty about our early lives’ experiential causes of ongoing adverse effects. The potential of experiential therapies to allow an individual to change their responses to these causes deserves as much investigation as do therapies that apply external “interventions.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735817302647 “Biological alterations affecting risk of adult psychopathology following childhood trauma: A review of sex differences” (not freely available) Thanks to lead author Dr. Ashwini Tiwari for providing a copy.

Lysine acetylation is gnarly and dynamic

This 2018 UC San Francisco cell review provided details of lysine acetylation:

“Lysine acetylation has moved from being a specialized mark on histones to a critical modification controlling cell fate, proliferation, and metabolism.

During the lifetime of a protein there are many points at which an acetyl group may be added to influence function..The dynamic interplay between the writers, erasers, and readers of acetylation regulates critical epigenomic and metabolic processes, in addition to other major cellular functions.

Acetylation sites are well conserved, in contrast to methylation, where species-specific differences exist.”

The review included a section on mitochondrial protein acetylation:

“Mitochondria have emerged as organelles in which acetylation is more prominent than phosphorylation and plays a key role in integrating metabolic cues with the bioenergetic equilibrium of the cell.

Increased mitochondrial protein acetylation is associated with physiological conditions that result in higher levels of acetyl-CoA (e.g., fasting, calorie restriction, high-fat diet, and ethanol intoxication).”

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.chemrev.7b00181 “Lysine Acetylation Goes Global: From Epigenetics to Metabolism and Therapeutics” (not freely available) Thanks to lead author Ibraheem Ali for providing a full copy.

A review of human pluripotent stem cell research

This 2018 Belgian review subject was human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs):

“hPSCs are now starting to live up to the great expectations they created after their first derivation nearly twenty years ago. Indeed, the first results of clinical trials to treat macular degeneration are being published, and an increasing number of clinical or preclinical trials are being started for conditions such as spinal cord injury, diabetes and heart disease.

This imminent transition of pluripotent stem cells to the clinic has resulted in researchers and clinicians becoming acutely aware of the problems related to the genetic and epigenetic diversity of these cells, included acquired mutations.”

The review included a section on mitochondrial processes that impact the differentiation capacity of pluripotent stem cells, summarized by:

“From this overview, we also observe a more ample contribution of mtDNA in cell fate determination than is represented in many studies tackling the topic.

The transition from aerobic glycolysis to aerobic phosphorylation plays a vital role in cells’ ability to correctly proceed through differentiation, though the mtDNA is rarely evaluated.”

https://academic.oup.com/humupd/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/humupd/dmx042/4825062?redirectedFrom=fulltext “Genetic and epigenetic factors which modulate differentiation propensity in human pluripotent stem cells” (not freely available) Thanks to lead author Alexander Keller for providing a copy.

Transgenerational effects of early environmental insults on aging and disease

The first paper of Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance week was a 2017 Canadian/Netherlands review that’s organized as follows:

“First, we address mechanisms of developmental and transgenerational programming of disease and inheritance. Second, we discuss experimental and clinical findings linking early environmental determinants to adverse aging trajectories in association with possible parental contributions and sex-specific effects. Third, we outline the main mechanisms of age-related functional decline and suggest potential interventions to reverse negative effects of transgenerational programming.”

A transgenerational phenotype was defined as an epigenetic modification that was maintained at least either to the F2 grandchildren in the paternal lineage or to the F3 great-grandchildren in the maternal lineage.

The reviewers noted that the mechanisms of transgenerational programming are complex and multivariate.  The severity, timing, and type of exposure, lineage of transmission, germ cell exposure, and gender of an organism were the main factors that may determine the consequences. The mechanisms reviewed were:

  1. Parental exposure to an adverse environment;
  2. Altered maternal behavior and care of the offspring; and
  3. Experience-dependent modifications of the epigenome.

There was a long list of diseases and impaired functionalities that were consequences of ancestral experiences and exposures. Most of the studies were animal, but a few were human, such as those done on effects of extended power outages during the Quebec ice storm of January 1998.

One intervention that was effective in reversing a transgenerational phenotype induced by deficient rodent maternal care was to place pups with a caring foster female soon after birth. It’s probably unacceptable in human societies to preemptively recognize all poor-care human mothers and remove the infant to caring foster mothers, but researchers could probably find enough instances to develop studies of the effectiveness of the placements in reversing a transgenerational phenotype.

The review didn’t have suggestions for reversing human transgenerational phenotypes, just  “..potential interventions to reverse negative effects of transgenerational programming.” The interventions suggested for humans – exercise, enriched lifestyle, cognitive training, dietary regimens, and expressive art and writing therapies – only reduced the impact of transgenerational epigenetic effects.

The tricky wording of “..reverse negative effects of transgenerational programming” showed that research paradigms weren’t aimed at resolving causes. The review is insufficient for the same reasons mentioned in How one person’s paradigms regarding stress and epigenetics impedes relevant research, prompting my same comment:

“Aren’t people interested in human treatments of originating causes so that their various symptoms don’t keep bubbling up? Why wouldn’t research paradigms be aligned accordingly?”

When reversals of human transgenerational phenotypes aren’t researched, the problems compound if they’re transmitted to the next generations.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014976341630714X “Transgenerational effects of early environmental insults on aging and disease incidence” (not freely available)

The cerebellum ages more slowly than other body and brain areas

This 2015 UCLA human study used the epigenetic clock methodology to find:

“All brain regions have similar DNAm ages in subjects younger than 80, but brain region becomes an increasingly significant determinant of age acceleration in older subjects. The cerebellum has a lower epigenetic age than other brain regions in older subjects.

To study age acceleration effects in non-brain tissues as well, we profiled a total of 30 tissues of a 112 year old woman. The cerebellum exhibited the lowest (negative) age acceleration effect compared to the remaining 29 other regions. In contrast, bone, bone marrow, and blood exhibit relatively older DNAm ages.”

Limitations included:

  • “While the epigenetic age of blood has been shown to relate to biological age, the same cannot yet be said about brain tissue.
  • Cellular heterogeneity may confound these results since the cerebellum involves distinct cell types.
  • This cross-sectional analysis does not lend itself for dissecting cause and effect relationships.”

The study didn’t determine why the cerebellum was relatively younger. Some hypotheses are:

  • “Our findings suggest that cerebellar DNA is epigenetically more stable and requires less ‘maintenance work.’
  • The cerebellum has a lower metabolic rate than cortex.
  • It has far fewer mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions than cortex especially in older subjects, and it accumulates less oxidative damage to both mtDNA and nuclear DNA than does cortex.”

http://impactaging.com/papers/v7/n5/full/100742.html “The cerebellum ages slowly according to the epigenetic clock”