Increased microtubule assembly rates influence chromosomal instability in colorectal cancer cells

Norman Ertych, Ailine Stolz, Albrecht Stenzinger, Wilko Weichert, Silke Kaulfuß, Peter Burfeind, Achim Aigner, Linda Wordeman, Holger Bastians

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Chromosomal instability (CIN) is defined as the perpetual missegregation of whole chromosomes during mitosis and represents a hallmark of human cancer. However, the mechanisms influencing CIN and its consequences on tumour growth are largely unknown. We identified an increase in microtubule plus-end assembly rates as a mechanism influencing CIN in colorectal cancer cells. This phenotype is induced by overexpression of the oncogene AURKA or by loss of the tumour suppressor gene CHK2, a genetic constitution found in 73% of human colorectal cancers. Increased microtubule assembly rates are associated with transient abnormalities in mitotic spindle geometry promoting the generation of lagging chromosomes and influencing CIN. Reconstitution of proper microtubule assembly rates by chemical or genetic means suppresses CIN and thereby, unexpectedly, accelerates tumour growth in vitro and in vivo. Thus, we identify a fundamental mechanism influencing CIN in cancer cells and reveal its adverse consequence on tumour growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-791
Number of pages13
JournalNature Cell Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


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