Although chromosome mis-segregation is a hallmark of cancer cells, its genetic basis and role in malignant transformation remain poorly understood. In recent years, several mouse models have been generated that harbor gene defects that perturb high-fidelity chromosome segregation. Analysis of these models has revealed that whole chromosome instability (W-CIN) can cause, inhibit or have no effect on tumorigenesis. Here we propose that the effect of W-CIN on tumor development depends on the particular W-CIN gene that is defective, including its other cellular functions, the extent or nature of the gene defect, the affected tissue or cell type and the context of other cancer gene mutations.
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