DNA damage checkpoints in stem cells, ageing and cancer.
DNA damage induces cell-intrinsic checkpoints, including p53 and retinoblastoma (RB), as well as upstream regulators (exonuclease 1 (EXO1), ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), ATR, p16(INK4a) and p19(ARF)) and downstream targets (p21, PUMA (p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis) and sestrins). Clearance of damaged cells by cell-intrinsic checkpoints suppresses carcinogenesis but as a downside may impair stem cell and tissue maintenance during ageing. Modulating the activity of DNA damage checkpoints can either accelerate or decelerate tissue ageing and age-related carcinogenesis. The outcome depends on cell-intrinsic and cell-extrinsic mechanisms that regulate the clearance of damaged cells and on the molecular context in ageing tissues, including the level of DNA damage accumulation itself.