Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dyskerin is a conserved, nucleolar RNA-binding protein implicated in an increasing array of fundamental cellular processes. Germline mutation in the dyskerin gene (DKC1) is the cause of X-linked dyskeratosis congenita (DC). Conversely, wild-type dyskerin is overexpressed in sporadic cancers, and high-levels may be associated with poor prognosis. It was previously reported that acute loss of dyskerin function via siRNA-mediated depletion slowed the proliferation of transformed cell lines. However, the mechanisms remained unclear. Using human U2OS osteosarcoma cells, we show that siRNA-mediated dyskerin depletion induced cellular senescence as evidenced by proliferative arrest, senescence-associated heterochromatinization and a senescence-associated molecular profile. Senescence can render cells resistant to apoptosis. Conversely, chromatin relaxation can reverse the repressive effects of senescence-associated heterochromatinization on apoptosis. To this end, genotoxic stress-induced apoptosis was suppressed in dyskerin-depleted cells. In contrast, agents that induce chromatin relaxation, including histone deacetylase inhibitors and the DNA intercalator chloroquine, sensitized dyskerin-depleted cells to apoptosis. Dyskerin is a core component of the telomerase complex and plays an important role in telomere homeostasis. Defective telomere maintenance resulting in premature senescence is thought to primarily underlie the pathogenesis of X-linked DC. Since U2OS cells are telomerase-negative, this leads us to conclude that loss of dyskerin function can also induce cellular senescence via mechanisms independent of telomere shortening.