Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Senescence is the last period of the life span, leading to death. It happens in all animals, with the exception of a few didermic species (Hydras) having a stock of embryonic cells and being immortal. The causes of animal senescence are badly known. They depend both on genetic characters (maximum life span of a species) and on medium factors (mean expectation of life of the animals of a species). Animal senescence could depend on cell aging: (1) by senescence and death of the differentiated cells. (2) by modified proliferation of the stem cells of differentiated tissues, (3) by alterations in the extracellular matrices, (4) by interactions between factors (1) (2) and (3) in each tissue, and (5) by interactions between the several tissues of an organism. This complexity badly impedes the experimental study of animal senescence. Normal mammal cells are aging when they are cultivated (in vitro aging). Present literature upon in vitro aging of cultivated human fibroblasts consists essentially of papers devoted to proliferation and differentiation characteristics and not to cell senescence. Murine skin fibroblasts have been studied in our laboratory, using different systems: (1) primary cultures isolated from peeled skins of mouse embryos, (2) mouse derms analysed in the animals, (3) cultivated explants of skins, (4) serial sub-cultures of fibroblasts isolated from these explants, (5) cells cultivated comparably on plane substrates (glass, plastic, collagen films) and on three-dimensional matrices (collagen fibres). In primary cultures (system 1) all the cell generations have been analysed, including the last one until death of the culture. We have shown that many characters are varying with cell generation. All the observed variations were: progressive, non-linear and correlated (intracellular feedbacks). We come to the conclusion that the main effects of cell mitotic age are (1) to depress the plasticity of the chromatin, (2) to change the organization of the cytoplasmic filaments, (3) to change the organization of the extracellular matrix. The collagen fibres are also acting upon nucleus and filaments either in the animals or in the cultures. The phenotype of a fibroblastic cell is thus both age- and environment-dependent. Overall data on in vitro cell aging point to the hypothesis that senescent cells are phenotypic variants and not mutant cells. Aging cell cultures are remarkably useful to the studies on cell proliferation decrease and cell cycle lengthening shown by the stem cells in animal tissues. We propose the hypothesis that the fibroblasts of the vertebrates would be homologous to the pluripotent mesenchyme cells of their embryos. © 1988.