[Sea Urchin Embryo, DNA-damaged Cell Cycle Checkpoint and the Mechanisms Initiating Cancer Development]

J Soc Biol. 2007;201(3):317-27. doi: 10.1051/jbio:2007030.
[Article in French]


Cell division is an essential process for heredity, maintenance and evolution of the whole living kingdom. Sea urchin early development represents an excellent experimental model for the analysis of cell cycle checkpoint mechanisms since embryonic cells contain a functional DNA-damage checkpoint and since the whole sea urchin genome is sequenced. The DNA-damaged checkpoint is responsible for an arrest in the cell cycle when DNA is damaged or incorrectly replicated, for activation of the DNA repair mechanism, and for commitment to cell death by apoptosis in the case of failure to repair. New insights in cancer biology lead to two fundamental concepts about the very first origin of cancerogenesis. Cancers result from dysfunction of DNA-damaged checkpoints and cancers appear as a result of normal stem cell (NCS) transformation into a cancer stem cell (CSC). The second aspect suggests a new definition of "cancer", since CSC can be detected well before any clinical evidence. Since early development starts from the zygote, which is a primary stem cell, sea urchin early development allows analysis of the early steps of the cancerization process. Although sea urchins do not develop cancers, the model is alternative and complementary to stem cells which are not easy to isolate, do not divide in a short time and do not divide synchronously. In the field of toxicology and incidence on human health, the sea urchin experimental model allows assessment of cancer risk from single or combined molecules long before any epidemiologic evidence is available. Sea urchin embryos were used to test the worldwide used pesticide Roundup that contains glyphosate as the active herbicide agent; it was shown to activate the DNA-damage checkpoint of the first cell cycle of development. The model therefore allows considerable increase in risk evaluation of new products in the field of cancer and offers a tool for the discovery of molecular markers for early diagnostic in cancer biology. Prevention and early diagnosis are two decisive elements of human cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Cycle / physiology*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Reproduction
  • Sea Urchins / embryology*
  • Sea Urchins / genetics