Research Papers:

Unsuccessful mitosis in multicellular tumour spheroids

Annie Molla _, Morgane Couvet and Jean-Luc Coll

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:28769-28784. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.15673

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Annie Molla1, Morgane Couvet1 and Jean-Luc Coll1

1Institute for Advance Biosciences, Centre de Recherche UGA, INSERM U1209, CNRS UMR 5309, 38700 La Tronche, France

Correspondence to:

Annie Molla, email: annie.molla@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr

Keywords: spheroid, mitosis, cytokinesis, mitotic drug, tetraploid cells

Received: September 22, 2016    Accepted: February 07, 2017    Published: February 24, 2017


Multicellular spheroids are very attractive models in oncology because they mimic the 3D organization of the tumour cells with their microenvironment. We show here using 3 different cell types (mammary TSA/pc, embryonic kidney Hek293 and cervical cancer HeLa), that when the cells are growing as spheroids the frequency of binucleated cells is augmented as occurs in some human tumours.

We therefore describe mitosis in multicellular spheroids by following mitotic markers and by time-lapse experiments. Chromosomes alignment appears to be correct on the metaphasic plate and the passenger complex is well localized on centromere. Moreover aurora kinases are fully active and histone H3 is phosphorylated on Ser 10. Consequently, the mitotic spindle checkpoint is satisfied and, anaphase proceeds as illustrated by the transfer of survivin on the spindle and by the segregation of the two lots of chromosomes. However, the segregation plane is not well defined and oscillations of the dividing cells are observed. Finally, cytokinesis fails and the absence of separation of the two daughter cells gives rise to binucleated cells.

Division orientation is specified during interphase and persists throughout mitosis. Our data indicate that the cancer cells, in multicellular spheroids, lose their ability to regulate their orientation, a feature commonly encountered in tumours.

Moreover, multicellular spheroid expansion is still sensitive to mitotic drugs as pactlitaxel and aurora kinase inhibitors. The spheroids thus represent a highly relevant model for studying drug efficiency in tumours.

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