Aging Cell. 2023 Jan 5:e13747. doi: 10.1111/acel.13747. Online ahead of print.
Blood-brain barrier dysfunction (BBBD) and accumulation of senescent astrocytes occur during brain aging and contribute to neuroinflammation and disease. Here, we explored the relationship between these two age-related events, hypothesizing that chronic hippocampal exposure to the blood-borne protein serum albumin could induce stress-induced premature senescence (SIPS) in astrocytes via transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ) signaling. We found that 1 week of albumin exposure significantly increased TGFβ signaling and senescence marker expression in cultured rat hippocampal astrocytes. These changes were preventable by pharmacological inhibition of the type I TGFβ receptor (TGFβR) ALK5. To study these effects in vivo, we utilized an animal model of BBBD in which albumin was continuously infused into the lateral ventricles of adult mice. Consistent with our in vitro results, 1 week of albumin infusion significantly increased TGFβ signaling activation and the burden of senescent astrocytes in hippocampal tissue. Pharmacological inhibition of ALK5 TGFβR or conditional genetic knockdown of astrocytic TGFβR prior to albumin infusion was sufficient to prevent albumin-induced astrocyte senescence. Together, these results establish a link between TGFβ signaling activation and astrocyte senescence and suggest that prolonged exposure to serum albumin due to BBBD can trigger these phenotypic changes.