Autonomous replicons, such as viral episomes and oncogene containing double minute chromosomes (DMs), lack centromeres and consequently should be lost rapidly when the nuclear membrane breaks down at mitosis. Surprisingly, they are not. This raises the important question of the mechanisms that enable their efficient transmission to daughter cells. We review recent developments in GFP-based chromosome labeling strategies that enable real time analyses using high resolution light microscopy to provide insights into this issue. The results reveal that episomes and DMs both adhere to host chromosomes, a process referred to as "chromosome tethering". Such association enables acentric molecules to use the chromosomal centromere in trans, thereby achieving efficient transmission to daughter cells. This unique mechanism of mitotic segregation also raises the possibility of developing a new class of anti-cancer drugs that work by selectively eliminating growth enhancing genes from cancer cells. J. Cell. Biochem. Suppl. 35:107-114, 2000.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.