The unique ability of centrosomes to nucleate and organize microtubules makes them unrivaled conductors of important interphase processes, such as intracellular payload traffic, cell polarity, cell locomotion, and organization of the immunologic synapse. But it is in mitosis that centrosomes loom large, for they orchestrate, with clockmaker's precision, the assembly and functioning of the mitotic spindle, ensuring the equal partitioning of the replicated genome into daughter cells. Centrosome dysfunction is inextricably linked to aneuploidy and chromosome instability, both hallmarks of cancer cells. Several aspects of centrosome function in normal and cancer cells have been molecularly characterized during the last two decades, greatly enhancing our mechanistic understanding of this tiny organelle. Whether centrosome defects alone can cause cancer, remains unanswered. Until recently, the aggregate of the evidence had suggested that centrosome dysfunction, by deregulating the fidelity of chromosome segregation, promotes and accelerates the characteristic Darwinian evolution of the cancer genome enabled by increased mutational load and/or decreased DNA repair. Very recent experimental work has shown that missegregated chromosomes resulting from centrosome dysfunction may experience extensive DNA damage, suggesting additional dimensions to the role of centrosomes in cancer. Centrosome dysfunction is particularly prevalent in tumors in which the genome has undergone extensive structural rearrangements and chromosome domain reshuffling. Ongoing gene reshuffling reprograms the genome for continuous growth, survival, and evasion of the immune system. Manipulation of molecular networks controlling centrosome function may soon become a viable target for specific therapeutic intervention in cancer, particularly since normal cells, which lack centrosome alterations, may be spared the toxicity of such therapies.
Keywords: CIN; aneuploidy; centriole; centrosome; chromoanagenesis; chromothripsis; micronuclei; mitosis.