The cell has many mechanisms for protecting the integrity of its genome. These mechanisms are often weakened or absent in many cancers, leading to high rates of chromosomal instability in tumors. Control of the cell cycle is crucial for the function of these checkpoints, and is frequently lost in cancers as well. Overexpression of Cyclin D1 in a large number of breast cancers causes overactivation of the cyclin-dependent kinases, including Cdk2. Constitutive Cdk2 activation through Cyclin D1 generates tumors in mice that are aneuploid and have many characteristics indicative of chromosomal instability. Expression of these complexes in the MCF10A cell line leads to retinoblastoma protein (Rb) hyperphosphorylation, a subsequent increase in proliferation rate, and increased expression of the spindle assembly checkpoint protein Mad2. This results in a strengthening of the spindle assembly checkpoint and renders cells more sensitive to the spindle poison paclitaxel. Constitutive Rb phosphorylation also causes a weakening of the p53-dependent tetraploidy checkpoint. Cells with overactive Cdk2 fail to arrest after mitotic slippage in the presence of paclitaxel or cytokinesis failure during treatment with cytochalasin-B, generating 8N populations. This additional increase in DNA content appears to further intensify the tetraploidy checkpoint in a step-wise manner. These polyploid cells are not viable long-term, either failing to undergo division or creating daughter cells that are unable to undergo subsequent division. This study raises intriguing questions about the treatment of tumors with overactive Cdk2.
Journal of Cell Science, 2013, Vol 126, Issue Pt 5, p. 1207-17