Human fibroblasts have a limited replicative life span when maintained in culture after which they become unresponsive to treatment with mitogens, a phenomenon most commonly called senescence. Experiments indicating that serum does not induce expression of the c-fos proto-oncogene in senescent fibroblasts raised the issue of a potential central role for c-fos in the phenotype of sustained growth arrest. This was directly tested by microinjection of oncogenic c-Ha-ras protein into senescent fibroblasts. While ras injection was found to induce marked nuclear c-fos expression and functional AP-1 transcription activity, this did not lead to DNA synthesis. These results suggest that the senescence phenotype cannot be solely attributed to the absence of c-fos expression and that the proliferative block in these cells is either independent of AP-1 transcriptional activity, downstream of it, or involves multiple molecular mechanisms.

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