June 2nd, 2015
Although it has been known for some time that cancer genomes can be replete with rearrangements and mutations that accumulate over time, sequencing efforts recently identified additional types of mutations that appear to happen within a single cell cycle. One of these types, chromothripsis, causes rearrangements and DNA copy number variation restricted to only one or a few chromosomes. In the journal Nature, Broad researchers Cheng-Zhong Zhang, Joshua Francis, Matthew Meyerson, David Pellman, and colleagues describe how chromothripsis can occur, involving the formation of “micronuclei,” as an outcome of aberrant cell division. These findings uncover a potentially under-acknowledged source of genetic variation and show how chromosome segregation errors can contribute to cancer.