Micronuclei (MN) are extra-nuclear bodies that contain damaged chromosome fragments and/or whole chromosomes that were not incorporated into the nucleus after cell division. MN can be induced by defects in the cell repair machinery and accumulation of DNA damages and chromosomal aberrations. A variety of genotoxic agents may induce MN formation leading to cell death, genomic instability, or cancer development. In this review, the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of MN formation after various clastogenic and aneugenic effects on cell division and cell cycle are described. The knowledge accumulated in literature on cytotoxicity of various genotoxins is precisely reflected and individual sensitivity to MN formation due to single gene polymorphisms is discussed. The importance of rapid MN scoring with respect to the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay is also evaluated.
Keywords: DNA methylation; chromosome-defective; epigenetics; genotoxicity; histones; micronuclei; small RNAs.