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Genes Dev. 1996 Oct 15;10(20):2621-31.

Expression of Bcl-xL and loss of p53 can cooperate to overcome a cell cycle checkpoint induced by mitotic spindle damage.

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  • 1Gwen Knapp Center for Lupus and Immunology Research, The University of Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


During somatic cell division, faithful chromosomal segregation must follow DNA replication to prevent aneuploidy or polyploidy. Damage to the mitotic spindle is one potential mechanism that interferes with chromosomal segregation. The accumulation of aneuploid or polyploid cells resulting from a disrupted mitotic spindle is presumably prevented by cell cycle checkpoint controls. In the course of studying cells that overexpress the apoptosis-inhibiting protein Bcl-xL, we found that these cells have an increased rate of spontaneous tetraploidization, suggesting that apoptosis may play an important role in eliminating cells that fail to complete mitosis properly. When cells expressing Bcl-xL are treated with mitotic spindle inhibitors, a significant percentage reinitiate DNA replication and become polyploid. Nevertheless, the majority of cells expressing Bcl-xL undergo a prolonged p53-dependent cell cycle arrest following mitotic spindle damage. Unexpectedly, p53 expression is not induced in mitosis, nor does it influence M-phase arrest. Instead, cells with mitotic spindle damage only transiently arrest in M phase, and despite failing to complete mitosis, appear to proceed to G1. During this subsequent growth factor-dependent phase, p53 is induced and mediates cell cycle arrest. In cells that do not overexpress Bcl-xL, elimination of the p53-dependent growth arrest with a dominant negative mutant also results in polyploidy after mitotic spindle damage, but under these conditions most cells die by apoptosis. Expression of Bcl-xL and abrogation of p53 cooperate to allow rapid and progressive polyploidization following mitotic spindle damage. Our results suggest that suppression of apoptosis by bcl-2-related genes and loss of p53 function can act cooperatively to contribute to genetic instability.

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