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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e22946. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022946. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Mitotic catastrophe occurs in the absence of apoptosis in p53-null cells with a defective G1 checkpoint.

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  • 1Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Cell death occurring during mitosis, or mitotic catastrophe, often takes place in conjunction with apoptosis, but the conditions in which mitotic catastrophe may exhibit features of programmed cell death are still unclear. In the work presented here, we studied mitotic cell death by making use of a UV-inactivated parvovirus (adeno-associated virus; AAV) that has been shown to induce a DNA damage response and subsequent death of p53-defective cells in mitosis, without affecting the integrity of the host genome. Osteosarcoma cells (U2OSp53DD) that are deficient in p53 and lack the G1 cell cycle checkpoint respond to AAV infection through a transient G2 arrest. We found that the infected U2OSp53DD cells died through mitotic catastrophe with no signs of chromosome condensation or DNA fragmentation. Moreover, cell death was independent of caspases, apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), autophagy and necroptosis. These findings were confirmed by time-lapse microscopy of cellular morphology following AAV infection. The assays used readily revealed apoptosis in other cell types when it was indeed occurring. Taken together the results indicate that in the absence of the G1 checkpoint, mitotic catastrophe occurs in these p53-null cells predominantly as a result of mechanical disruption induced by centrosome overduplication, and not as a consequence of a suicide signal.

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