Whole chromosome instability resulting from the synergistic effects of pRB and p53 inactivation

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Abstract

Whole chromosome instability (CIN) is a common feature of cancer cells and has been linked to increased tumor evolution and metastasis. Several studies have shown that the loss of the pRB tumor suppressor causes mitotic defects and chromosome missegregation. pRB is inactivated in many types of cancer and this raises the possibility that the loss of pRB may be a general cause of CIN in tumors. Paradoxically, retinoblastoma tumor cells have a relatively stable karyotype and currently the circumstances in which pRB inactivation causes CIN in human cancers are unclear. Here we utilize a fluorescence in situ hybridization-based approach to score numerical heterogeneity in chromosome copy number as a readout of CIN. Using this technique, we show that high levels of CIN correlate with the combined inactivation of pRB and p53 and that this association is evident in two independent panels of cancer cell lines. Retinoblastoma cell lines characteristically retain a wild-type TP53 gene, providing an opportunity to test the relevance of this functional relationship. We show that retinoblastoma cell lines display mitotic defects similar to those seen when pRB is depleted from non-transformed cells, but that the presence of wild-type p53 suppresses the accumulation of aneuploid cells. A similar synergy between pRB and p53 inactivation was observed in HCT116 cells. These results suggest that the loss of pRB promotes segregation errors, whereas loss of p53 allows tolerance and continued proliferation of the resulting, genomically unstable cancer cells. Hence, it is the cooperative effect of inactivation of both pRB and p53 tumor suppressor pathways that promotes CIN.

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