Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program



First Thesis Advisor

Jason J. Chen, PhD


Polyploidy, Cell Transformation, Neoplastic, Oncogene Proteins, Fusion, Oncogene Proteins, Viral


A common phenotype observed in most cancers is chromosomal instability. This includes both structural and numerical chromosomal aberrations, which can promote carcinogenesis. The fusion gene CBFB/MYH11 is created by the structural chromosomal inversion(16)(p13.1q22), resulting in the fusion protein CBFβ-SMMHC, which blocks differentiation in hematopoietic progenitor cells. This mutation alone, however, is not sufficient for transformation, and at least one additional cooperating mutation is necessary.

The role of wildtype Cbfb in modulating the oncogenic function of the fusion protein Cbfβ-SMMHC in mice was examined. Transgenic mice expressing the fusion protein, but lacking a wild-type copy of Cbfb, were created to model the effects of these combined mutations. It was found that wild-type Cbfb is necessary for maintaining normal hematopoietic differentiation. Consequently, complete loss of wild-type Cbfb accelerates leukemogenesis in Cbfb/MYH11 mice compared to mice expressing both the fusion and wild-type proteins. While there is no evidence in human patient samples that loss of wild-type Cbfb expression cooperates with the fusion protein to cause transformation, it is apparent from these experiments that wild-type Cbfβ does play a role in maintaining genomic integrity in the presence of Cbfβ-SMMHC. Experiments have also shown that loss of Cbfb leads to accumulation of hematopoietic progenitor cells, which may acquire additional cooperating mutations.

Not unlike CBFB/MYH11, the human papillomavirus (HPV) E6 and E7 proteins are not sufficient for cellular transformation. Instead, high risk HPV E7 causes numerical chromosomal aberrations, which can lead to accumulation of additional cooperating mutations. Expression of HPV-16 E7 and subsequent downregulation of the retinoblastoma protein (Rb) has been shown to induce polyploidy in human keratinocytes. Polyploidy predisposes cells to aneuploidy and can eventually lead to transformation in HPV positive cells.

There are several possible mechanisms through which E7 may lead to polyploidization, including abrogation of the spindle assembly checkpoint, cleavage failure, abrogation of the postmitotic checkpoint, and re-replication. Rb-defective mouse and human cells were found to undergo normal mitosis and complete cytokinesis. Furthermore, DNA re-replication was not found to be a major mechanism to polyploidization in HPV-E7 cells upon microtubule disruption. Interestingly, upon prolonged mitotic arrest, cells were found to adapt to the spindle assembly checkpoint and halt in a G1-like state with 4C DNA content. This post-mitotic checkpoint is abrogated by E7-induced Rb-downregulation leading to S-phase induction and polyploidy.

This dissertation explores two examples of the multi-step pathway in human cancers. While certain genes or genetic mutations are often characteristic of specific cancers, those mutations are often not sufficient for transformation. The genetic or chromosomal abnormalities that they produce often stimulate the additional mutations necessary for oncogenesis. The studies with Cbfb/MYH11 and HPV E7 further exemplify the significance of numerical and structural chromosomal aberrations in multi-step carcinogenesis.



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