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A non-genetic route to aneuploidy in human cancers


Aneuploidy is common in human tumours and is often indicative of aggressive disease. Aneuploidy can result from cytokinesis failure, which produces binucleate cells that generate aneuploid offspring with subsequent divisions. In cancers, disruption of cytokinesis is known to result from genetic perturbations to mitotic pathways or checkpoints. Here we describe a non-genetic mechanism of cytokinesis failure that occurs as a direct result of cell-in-cell formation by entosis. Live cells internalized by entosis, which can persist through the cell cycle of host cells, disrupt formation of the contractile ring during host cell division. As a result, cytokinesis frequently fails, generating binucleate cells that produce aneuploid cell lineages. In human breast tumours, multinucleation is associated with cell-in-cell structures. These data define a previously unknown mechanism of cytokinesis failure and aneuploid cell formation that operates in human cancers.

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Figure 1: Cell-in-cell structures are multinucleated.
Figure 2: Host cells fail cytokinesis.
Figure 3: Internalized cells disrupt the cleavage furrow.
Figure 4: Internalized cells block cleavage furrow formation.
Figure 5: Binucleated cell-in-cell structures generate aneuploid lineages.

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This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (J.S.B.), NIH GM66492 (R.W.K.) and a grant from the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at MSKCC (M.O.).

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Authors and Affiliations



M.K., N.B.J., Q.S., G.N., N.H., E.Y. and M.O. designed and carried out experiments, A.L.R. provided human tumours, J.S.B., E.S.C., R.W.K., S.J.S. and M.O. supervised the research, and M.O. and J.S.B. prepared the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Michael Overholtzer.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Krajcovic, M., Johnson, N., Sun, Q. et al. A non-genetic route to aneuploidy in human cancers. Nat Cell Biol 13, 324–330 (2011).

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