When an individual is under stress, the undesired effect on the brain often exceeds expectations. Additionally, when stress persists for a long time, it can trigger serious health problems, particularly depression. Recent studies have revealed that depressed patients have a higher rate of brain aging than healthy subjects and that depression increases dementia risk later in life. However, it remains unknown which factors are involved in brain aging triggered by chronic stress. The most critical change during brain aging is the decline in cognitive function. In addition, cellular senescence is a stable state of cell cycle arrest that occurs because of damage and/or stress and is considered a sign of aging. We used the chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) model to mimic stressful life situations and found that, compared with nonstressed control mice, CUS-treated C57BL/6 mice exhibited depression-like behaviors and cognitive decline. Additionally, the protein expression of the senescence marker p16INK4a was increased in the hippocampus, and senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-β-gal)-positive cells were found in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) in CUS-treated mice. Furthermore, the levels of SA-β-gal or p16INK4a were strongly correlated with the severity of memory impairment in CUS-treated mice, whereas clearing senescent cells using the pharmacological senolytic cocktail dasatinib plus quercetin (D + Q) alleviated CUS-induced cognitive deficits, suggesting that targeting senescent cells may be a promising candidate approach to study chronic stress-induced cognitive decline. Our findings open new avenues for stress-related research and provide new insight into the association of chronic stress-induced cellular senescence with cognitive deficits.
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