Tripolar mitosis in human cells and embryos: occurrence, pathophysiology and medical implications

Acta Histochem. 2015 Jan;117(1):111-25. doi: 10.1016/j.acthis.2014.11.009. Epub 2014 Dec 29.


Tripolar mitosis is a specific case of cell division driven by typical molecular mechanisms of mitosis, but resulting in three daughter cells instead of the usual count of two. Other variants of multipolar mitosis show even more mitotic poles and are relatively rare. In nature, this phenomenon was frequently observed or suspected in multiple common cancers, infected cells, the placenta, and in early human embryos with impaired pregnancy-yielding potential. Artificial causes include radiation and various toxins. Here we combine several pieces of the most recent evidence for the existence of different types of multipolar mitosis in preimplantation embryos together with a detailed review of the literature. The related molecular and cellular mechanisms are discussed, including the regulation of centriole duplication, mitotic spindle biology, centromere functions, cell cycle checkpoints, mitotic autocorrection mechanisms, and the related complicating factors in healthy and affected cells, including post-mitotic cell-cell fusion often associated with multipolar cell division. Clinical relevance for oncology and embryo selection in assisted reproduction is also briefly discussed in this context.

Keywords: Cell–cell fusion; Centrosome cycle; Chlamydia trachomatis; Human embryo time-lapse monitoring; Human papilloma virus; Multipolar mitosis; Tripolar mitosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastocyst / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints*
  • Centrioles / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy