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J Cell Biochem. 2006 Oct 15;99(3):759-69.

A role of the mitotic spindle checkpoint in the cellular response to DNA replication stress.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.


Replication stress is a frequent and early event during tumorigenesis. Whereas the cellular responses to a persistent block of replication fork progression have been extensively studied, relatively little is known about how cells respond to low-intensity replication stress. However, transient replication fork perturbations are likely to occur even more frequently in tumor cells than a permanent replication arrest. We report here that transient, low intensity replication stress leads to a rapid activation of the DNA replication checkpoint but to a significantly delayed apoptotic response in a small but significant number of cells. This late apoptotic response was independent of p53 and we found evidence for cell death during mitosis in a proportion of cells. To further explore the role of p53 in the response to replication stress, we analyzed mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) deficient of p53 in comparison to wild-type or p63- or p73-deficient MEFs. We detected a significant increase of apoptosis and morphological signs of failed mitosis such as multinucleation in p53-deficient MEFs following replication stress, but not in wild-type or p63- or p73-deficient cells. Multinucleated p53-deficient MEFs frequently retained cyclin B1 expression indicating a persistently activated mitotic spindle checkpoint. Collectively, our results suggest that the cellular response to replication stress involves the mitotic spindle checkpoint in a proportion of cells. These findings imply that the mitotic spindle checkpoint may act in concert with DNA damage and cell-cycle checkpoints as an early anti-tumor barrier and provide a possible explanation for its frequent relaxation in human cancer.

2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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