Aging is broadly defined as the functional decline that occurs in all body systems. The accumulation of senescent cells is considered a hallmark of aging and thought to contribute to the aging pathologies. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is a pleiotropic cytokine that regulates a myriad of cellular processes and has important roles in embryonic development, physiological tissue homeostasis, and various pathological conditions. TGF-β exerts potent growth inhibitory activities in various cell types, and multiple growth regulatory mechanisms have reportedly been linked to the phenotypes of cellular senescence and stem cell aging in previous studies. In addition, accumulated evidence has indicated a multifaceted association between TGF-β signaling and aging-associated disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, muscle atrophy, and obesity. The findings regarding these diseases suggest that the impairment of TGF-β signaling in certain cell types and the upregulation of TGF-β ligands contribute to cell degeneration, tissue fibrosis, inflammation, decreased regeneration capacity, and metabolic malfunction. While the biological roles of TGF-β depend highly on cell types and cellular contexts, aging-associated changes are an important additional context which warrants further investigation to better understand the involvement in various diseases and develop therapeutic options. The present review summarizes the relationships between TGF-β signaling and cellular senescence, stem cell aging, and aging-related diseases.
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