Chromosome proliferation mechanisms in fruit fly and implications for understanding cancer

Dr. Don Fox

Don Fox, Ph.D.

Dr. Don Fox, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke, studies the processes of tissue repair and remodeling, both of which involve mitosis, in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.  Mitosis is the process of cell division that normally results in two identical pairs of chromosomes being separated into each new cell.

Recently, Dr. Fox and his student Ben Stormo discovered that mitosis is very different when more than two identical pairs of chromosomes are present.  By carefully observing cells with these extra chromosomes as they enter mitosis, Stormo and Fox discovered a new type of chromosome separation that happens just before a cell undergoes the standard form of mitosis.  This newly discovered chromosome separation helps cells to cope with the challenge of separating all those extra chromosome copies. As many tumor cells have extra chromosomes, and as extra chromosomes can be generated by some forms of chemotherapy, these findings may have an important implication in the understanding of the mechanisms governing cancerous tumor progression. “Understanding these regulatory mechanisms brings us one step closer to understanding how some cancerous cells with extra chromosomes may proliferate in humans,” says Dr. Fox.

The paper was published in the Journal eLife on May 9, 2016.

A fruit fly cell with extra chromosomes at different stages of a disassembly process during mitosis. Image credit: Don Fox.

A fruit fly cell with extra chromosomes at different stages of a disassembly process during mitosis. Image credit: Don Fox.

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