Background: Nucleolin is a major component of the nucleolus, but is also found in other cell compartments. This protein is involved in various aspects of ribosome biogenesis from transcription regulation to the assembly of pre-ribosomal particles; however, many reports suggest that it could also play an important role in non nucleolar functions. To explore nucleolin function in cell proliferation and cell cycle regulation we used siRNA to down regulate the expression of nucleolin.
Results: We found that, in addition to the expected effects on pre-ribosomal RNA accumulation and nucleolar structure, the absence of nucleolin results in a cell growth arrest, accumulation in G2, and an increase of apoptosis. Numerous nuclear alterations, including the presence of micronuclei, multiple nuclei or large nuclei are also observed. In addition, a large number of mitotic cells showed a defect in the control of centrosome duplication, as indicated by the presence of more than 2 centrosomes per cell associated with a multipolar spindle structure in the absence of nucleolin. This phenotype is very similar to that obtained with the inactivation of another nucleolar protein, B23.
Conclusion: Our findings uncovered a new role for nucleolin in cell division, and highlight the importance of nucleolar proteins for centrosome duplication.