Where Metabolism Meets Senescence: Focus on Endothelial Cells

Jacopo Sabbatinelli, Francesco Prattichizzo, Fabiola Olivieri, Antonio Domenico Procopio, Maria Rita Rippo, Angelica Giuliani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Despite the decline in their proliferative potential, senescent cells display a high metabolic activity. Senescent cells have been shown to acquire a more glycolytic state even in presence of high oxygen levels, in a way similar to cancer cells. The diversion of pyruvate, the final product of glycolysis, away from oxidative phosphorylation results in an altered bioenergetic state and may occur as a response to the enhanced oxidative stress caused by the accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria. This metabolic shift leads to increased AMP/ATP and ADP/ATP ratios, to the subsequent AMPK activation, and ultimately to p53-mediated growth arrest. Mounting evidences suggest that metabolic reprogramming is critical to direct considerable amounts of energy toward specific activities related to the senescent state, including the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) and the modulation of immune responses within senescent cell tissue microenvironment. Interestingly, despite the relative abundance of oxygen in the vascular compartment, healthy endothelial cells (ECs) produce most of their ATP content from the anaerobic conversion of glucose to lactate. Their high glycolytic rate further increases during senescence. Alterations in EC metabolism have been identified in age-related diseases (ARDs) associated with a dysfunctional vasculature, including atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In particular, higher production of reactive oxygen species deriving from a variety of enzymatic sources, including uncoupled endothelial nitric oxide synthase and the electron transport chain, causes DNA damage and activates the NAD+-consuming enzymes polyADP-ribose polymerase 1 (PARP1). These non-physiological mechanisms drive the impairment of the glycolytic flux and the diversion of glycolytic intermediates into many pathological pathways. Of note, accumulation of senescent ECs has been reported in the context of ARDs. Through their pro-oxidant, pro-inflammatory, vasoconstrictor, and prothrombotic activities, they negatively impact on vascular physiology, promoting both the onset and development of ARDs. Here, we review the current knowledge on the cellular senescence-related metabolic changes and their contribution to the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of ARDs, with a particular focus on ECs. Moreover, current and potential interventions aimed at modulating EC metabolism, in order to prevent or delay ARD onset, will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1523
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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