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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Transient defects of mitotic spindle geometry and chromosome segregation errors

William T Silkworth and Daniela Cimini*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, 1981 Kraft Dr, Blacksburg, VA, 24061, USA

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Cell Division 2012, 7:19  doi:10.1186/1747-1028-7-19

Published: 11 August 2012


Assembly of a bipolar mitotic spindle is essential to ensure accurate chromosome segregation and prevent aneuploidy, and severe mitotic spindle defects are typically associated with cell death. Recent studies have shown that mitotic spindles with initial geometric defects can undergo specific rearrangements so the cell can complete mitosis with a bipolar spindle and undergo bipolar chromosome segregation, thus preventing the risk of cell death associated with abnormal spindle structure. Although this may appear as an advantageous strategy, transient defects in spindle geometry may be even more threatening to a cell population or organism than permanent spindle defects. Indeed, transient spindle geometry defects cause high rates of chromosome mis-segregation and aneuploidy. In this review, we summarize our current knowledge on two specific types of transient spindle geometry defects (transient multipolarity and incomplete spindle pole separation) and describe how these mechanisms cause chromosome mis-segregation and aneuploidy. Finally, we discuss how these transient spindle defects may specifically contribute to the chromosomal instability observed in cancer cells.

Mitosis; Mitotic spindle; Kinetochore; Centrosome; Chromosomal instability; Cancer; Aneuploidy