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Mutagenesis. 1999 Sep;14(5):513-20.

Induction of polyploidy and apoptosis after exposure to high concentrations of the spindle poison nocodazole.

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Laboratory for Cell Genetics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.


The proportions of aneuploid/polyploid versus euploid cells formed after treatment with spindle poisons like nocodazole are of course dependent on the relative survival of cells with numerical chromosome aberrations. This work aimed at studying the survival of polyploid cells formed after treatment with a nocodazole concentration sufficient to significantly decrease tubulin polymerization (0.1 microg/ml). First, normal primary lymphocytes were analysed and the following complementary chromosomal parameters were quantified: mitotic index, frequency of abnormal mitoses, polyploid metaphases and apoptotic cells. The results clearly indicate a positive correlation between abnormal mitotic figures, apoptosis and the induction of polyploidy. They therefore led to a single cell approach in which both apoptosis and polyploidy induction could be scored in the same cell. For this purpose, actively proliferating cells are required and two human leukaemic cell lines were used, KS (p53-positive) and K562 (p53-negative), which have a near-triploid karyotype. Cells were separated into an apoptotic and a viable fraction by means of annexin-V staining and flow cytometry. In KS, treatment with nocodazole induced a similar fraction of hexaploid cells in both the viable and apoptotic fraction, but no dodecaploid cells were ever observed. In contrast, a population of dodecaploid cells (essentially viable) was clearly observed in the K562 cell line. The results in KS, as compared with K562, confirm that wild-type p53 can prevent further cycling of polyploid cells by blocking rereplication. The most probable explanation for these data is that not only the mitotic spindle but also interphase microtubules are sensitive to nocodazole treatment. Our data thus strongly suggest that besides the G(1)/S checkpoint under the control of p53, the G(2)/M transition may be sensitive to depolymerization of microtubules, possibly under the control of Cdc2, Bcl-2, Raf-1 and/or Rho.

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