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DNA Repair (Amst). 2011 Jun 10;10(6):629-38. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2011.04.010. Epub 2011 May 4.

The fate of micronucleated cells post X-irradiation detected by live cell imaging.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China.


Micronuclei are closely related to DNA damage. The presence of micronuclei in mammalian cells is a common phenomenon post ionizing radiation. The level of micronucleation in tumor cells has been used to predict prognosis after radiotherapy in many cancers. In order to understand how irradiation-induced micronuclei affect cell fate, we performed extensive long-term live cell imaging on X-irradiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells. To visualize the dynamics of micronuclei more clearly, chromosomes were stably labeled with red fluorescent protein (RFP) by targeting to human histone H2B. Initially, significantly more micronuclei were observed in radiosensitive cells than in radioresistant cells post irradiation. Additionally, cells with micronuclei were found to be more likely to die or undergo cell cycle arrest when compared with micronucleus-free cells after irradiation, and the more micronuclei the cells contained the more likely they would die or undergo arrest. Moreover, micronucleated cells showed predisposition to produce daughter cells with micronuclei through chromosome lagging. Fluorescence in situ hybridization using human pan-centromeric probes revealed that about 70% of these micronuclei and lagging chromosomes did not contain centromeric signals. Finally, DNA damage was more severe and p38 stress kinase activity was higher in micronucleated cells than in micronucleus-free cells as shown by phospho-H2AX and phospho-p38 immunofluorescence staining. Altogether, our observations indicated that the presence of micronuclei coupled with activated DNA damage response could compromise the proliferation capacity of irradiated cells, providing the evidence and justification for using micronucleus index as a valuable biomarker of radiosensitivity.

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