Transient nuclear envelope rupturing during interphase in human cancer cells

Nucleus. 2012 Jan-Feb;3(1):88-100. doi: 10.4161/nucl.18954.


Neoplastic cells are often characterized by specific morphological abnormalities of the nuclear envelope (NE), which have been used for cancer diagnosis for more than a century. The NE is a double phospholipid bilayer that encapsulates the nuclear genome, regulates all nuclear trafficking of RNAs and proteins and prevents the passive diffusion of macromolecules between the nucleoplasm and the cytoplasm. Whether there is a consequence to the proper functioning of the cell and loss of structural integrity of the nucleus remains unclear. Using live cell imaging, we characterize a phenomenon wherein nuclei of several proliferating human cancer cell lines become temporarily ruptured during interphase. Strikingly, NE rupturing was associated with the mislocalization of nucleoplasmic and cytoplasmic proteins and, in the most extreme cases, the entrapment of cytoplasmic organelles in the nuclear interior. In addition, we observed the formation of micronuclei-like structures during interphase and the movement of chromatin out of the nuclear space. The frequency of these NE rupturing events was higher in cells in which the nuclear lamina, a network of intermediate filaments providing mechanical support to the NE, was not properly formed. Our data uncover the existence of a NE instability that has the potential to change the genomic landscape of cancer cells.

Keywords: cancer; genomic instability; live-imaging; nuclear envelope; nuclear permeability barrier.

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Genomic Instability
  • Humans
  • Interphase*
  • Lamins / deficiency
  • Lamins / genetics
  • Lamins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Nuclear Envelope / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / metabolism
  • Permeability
  • Signal Transduction
  • Time Factors


  • Lamins
  • Nuclear Localization Signals