Human diploid fibroblasts (HDFs) exposed to subcytotoxic stress display many features of senescence. Using differential display RT-PCR, gene expression of HDFs in premature senescence induced by tert-butylhydroperoxide or ethanol and in replicative senescence was compared to gene expression of HDFs at early cumulative population doublings. Thirty genes of known function were identified from the 265 differentially displayed cDNA fragments. A customized low-density array allowed to confirm the relative level of the corresponding 30 transcripts. We found differential expression of genes coding for proteins implicated namely in growth arrest (PTEN, IGFBP-3, LRP-1 and CAV1), senescent morphogenesis (TGF-β1 and LOXL2) and iron metabolism (TFR and FTL). © 2005 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.