Open Access Research article

RNAi mediated acute depletion of Retinoblastoma protein (pRb) promotes aneuploidy in human primary cells via micronuclei formation

Angela Amato1, Laura Lentini1, Tiziana Schillaci1, Flora Iovino2 and Aldo Di Leonardo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Biologia Cellulare e dello Sviluppo "A. Monroy", Università di Palermo, viale delle Scienze, Palermo, Italy

2 Dipartimento di Discipline Chirurgiche e Oncologiche, Laboratorio di Patofisiologia Cellulare e Molecolare Università di Palermo, Palermo, Italy

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BMC Cell Biology 2009, 10:79  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-10-79

Published: 2 November 2009



Changes in chromosome number or structure as well as supernumerary centrosomes and multipolar mitoses are commonly observed in human tumors. Thus, centrosome amplification and mitotic checkpoint dysfunctions are believed possible causes of chromosomal instability. The Retinoblastoma tumor suppressor (RB) participates in the regulation of synchrony between DNA synthesis and centrosome duplication and it is involved in transcription regulation of some mitotic genes. Primary human fibroblasts were transfected transiently with short interfering RNA (siRNA) specific for human pRb to investigate the effects of pRb acute loss on chromosomal stability.


Acutely pRb-depleted fibroblasts showed altered expression of genes necessary for cell cycle progression, centrosome homeostasis, kinetochore and mitotic checkpoint proteins. Despite altered expression of genes involved in the Spindle Assembly Checkpoint (SAC) the checkpoint seemed to function properly in pRb-depleted fibroblasts. In particular AURORA-A and PLK1 overexpression suggested that these two genes might have a role in the observed genomic instability. However, when they were post-transcriptionally silenced in pRb-depleted fibroblasts we did not observe reduction in the number of aneuploid cells. This finding suggests that overexpression of these two genes did not contribute to genomic instability triggered by RB acute loss although it affected cell proliferation. Acutely pRb-depleted human fibroblasts showed the presence of micronuclei containing whole chromosomes besides the presence of supernumerary centrosomes and aneuploidy.


Here we show for the first time that RB acute loss triggers centrosome amplification and aneuploidy in human primary fibroblasts. Altogether, our results suggest that pRb-depleted primary human fibroblasts possess an intact spindle checkpoint and that micronuclei, likely caused by mis-attached kinetochores that in turn trigger chromosome segregation errors, are responsible for aneuploidy in primary human fibroblasts where pRb is acutely depleted.