Small but mighty: the causes and consequences of micronucleus rupture

Mijung Kwon, Mitchell L. Leibowitz, Jae Ho Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Micronuclei are small DNA-containing nuclear structures that are spatially isolated from the main nucleus. They are frequently found in pathologies, including cancer. It was recently shown that these nuclear structures are not only biomarkers of disease but also play an active role in tumor biology. Many consequences of micronucleus formation on tumor biology are dependent on the frequent and irreversible rupture of their nuclear envelopes, which results in the exposure of their DNA contents to the cytoplasm. In this review, we discuss models of defective nuclear envelope deposition on missegregated chromosomes that lead to nuclear envelope rupture. Furthermore, we expound upon the various downstream consequences of micronucleus nuclear envelope rupture on cells. These consequences include a massive DNA rearrangement phenomenon called chromothripsis and activation of the cGAS-STING innate immune signaling pathway, which can be a double-edged sword with tumorigenesis and tumor prevention functions. Although micronuclei are small structures, the impact they have on cells and their microenvironment is quite large.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1777-1786
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental and Molecular Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant (NRF-2019R1A5A6099645) and the Ewha Womans University Research Grant of 2020 to M.K. and by the National Research Foundation of Korea grant (NRF-2018R1D1A1B07048528) to J. L.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


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