BACKGROUND: Chronic inflammation is a well-known corollary of the aging process and is believed to significantly contribute to morbidity and mortality of many age-associated chronic diseases. However, the mechanisms that cause age-associated inflammatory changes are not well understood. Particularly, the contribution of cell stress responses to age-associated inflammation in 'non-inflammatory' cells remains poorly defined. The present cross-sectional study focused on differences in molecular signatures indicative of inflammatory states associated with biological aging of human fibroblasts from donors aged 22 to 92 years. RESULTS: Gene expression profiling revealed elevated steady-state transcript levels consistent with a chronic inflammatory state in fibroblast cell-strains obtained from older donors. We also observed enhanced NF-kappaB DNA binding activity in a subset of strains, and the NF-kappaB profile correlated with mRNA expression levels characteristic of inflammatory processes, which include transcripts coding for cytokines, chemokines, components of the complement cascade and MHC molecules. This intrinsic low-grade inflammatory state, as it relates to aging, occurs in cultured cells irrespective of the presence of other cell types or the in vivo context. CONCLUSION: Our results are consistent with the view that constitutive activation of inflammatory pathways is a phenomenon prevalent in aged fibroblasts. It is possibly part of a cellular survival process in response to compromised mitochondrial function. Importantly, the inflammatory gene expression signature described here is cell autonomous, i.e. occurs in the absence of prototypical immune or pro-inflammatory cells, growth factors, or other inflammatory mediators.
Recommended CitationKriete, Andres; Mayo, Kelli L; Yalamanchili, Nirupama; Beggs, William; Bender, Patrick; Kari, Csaba; and Rodeck, Ulrich, "Cell autonomous expression of inflammatory genes in biologically aged fibroblasts associated with elevated NF-kappaB activity." (2008). Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 8.