© 2016 Wang et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Senescence stimuli activate multiple tumor suppressor pathways to initiate cycle arrest and a differentiation program characteristic of senescent cells. We performed a two-stage, gain-of-function screen to select for the genes whose enhanced expression can bypass replicative senescence. We uncovered multiple genes known to be involved in p53 and Rb regulation and ATM regulation, two components of the CST (CTC1-STN1-TEN1) complex involved in preventing telomere erosion, and genes such as REST and FOXO4 that have been implicated in aging. Among the new genes now implicated in senescence, we identified DLX2, a homeobox transcription factor that has been shown to be required for tumor growth and metastasis and is associated with poor cancer prognosis. Growth analysis showed that DLX2 expression led to increased cellular replicative life span. Our data suggest that DLX2 expression reduces the protein components of the TTI1/TTI2/TEL2 complex, a key complex required for the proper folding and stabilization of ATM and other members of the PIKK (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-related kinase) family kinase, leading to reduced ATM-p53 signaling and senescence bypass. We also found that the overexpression of DLX2 exhibited a mutually exclusive relationship with p53 alterations in cancer patients. Our functional screen identified novel players that may promote tumorigenesis by regulating the ATM-p53 pathway and senescence.