Contribution of p16INK4a and p21CIP1 pathways to induction of premature senescence of human endothelial cells: Permissive role of p53

Jun Chen, Xuan Huang, Dorota Halicka, Sergey Brodsky, Ari Avram, Jonathan Eskander, Noah A. Bloomgarden, Zbigniew Darzynkiewicz, Michael S. Goligorsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


We have previously found that nonenzymatically glycated collagen I (GC), mimicking diabetic microenvironment, can induce senescent phenotype in early passage human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). In the present study, we explored the functional involvement of cell cycle checkpoint pathways in initiating GC-induced premature endothelial cell senescence. When compared with native collagen, early passage HUVECs showed increased p53, p21CIP1 (p21), and p16INK4a (p16) mRNA expression after exposure to GC. Twenty-four hours after transfection of p16, p21, and p53-enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) recombinant plasmids, HUVECs entered G 1-phase cell cycle arrest. By days 3 and 5, HUVECs transfected with p16-EGFP showed an increased proportion of senescent cells, and this increase was more prominent in the GFP-positive cell population, which exhibited 68% of senescent cells. Transfection of p21 also induced senescence but only by day 5. Cotransfection of p16 and p21 showed no additive effect. Transfection of p21 or p53 induced apoptosis in HUVECs. Next, we suppressed endogenous p53, p21, p16, or retinoblastoma (Rb) gene expression through small interference RNA strategy and investigated their influence in p16- and p21-initiated endothelial cell senescence. Analysis indicated that suppression of p53 expression can abolish senescence induced by p16 overexpression. Paradoxically, this effect was not observed when p21 was suppressed. On the other hand, suppression of Rb eliminated senescence initiated by either p16 or p21 overexpression. In summary, the p53/p21 pathway is mainly responsible for GC-induced apoptosis, but the coordinated activation of the p53/p21 and p16 pathway is responsible for GC-induced endothelial cell senescence through a Rb-dependent mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1575-H1586
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Advanced glycation end-products
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell cycle
  • Retinoblastoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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