Populations of tetraploid cells are found in a variety of human tumours where they may act as precursors of aneuploidy and tumorigenesis. Here we demonstrate the drug induction of tetraploid cells at mitosis by interference with cell cycle checkpoints and the coordination of mitotic events. Tetraploid cells result from mitotic exit in the absence of either chromosome segregation or cytokinesis. One class of agents that induces tetraploidy causes override of cell cycle checkpoints that require metaphase chromosome alignment as a pre-condition for initiating exit from mitosis. As a result cells exposed to such drugs progress partially through mitosis, but exit without chromosome segregation or cytokinesis. Inhibitors of microtubule assembly comprise a second class of agents that induce tetraploidy. Many cell types are incapable of maintaining indefinite mitotic arrest in the presence of microtubule inhibitors and finally exit mitosis without microtubule dependent chromosome segregation. Inhibitors of topoisomerase II represent a third class of drugs that induce tetraploidy at mitosis. By inhibiting DNA decatenation required for sister chromatid separation at the onset of anaphase such drugs block chromosome segregation. When topoisomerase II activity is inhibited, cells nonetheless reform nuclei and exit from mitosis without chromosome segregation. Finally, inhibition of cleavage furrow formation by agents such as cytochalasins represents a fourth mechanism of tetraploidization at mitosis. We find that when Chinese Hamster Ovary cells become tetraploid, regardless of which mechanism induces this state, they are genetically unstable and become aneuploid at the subsequent mitosis. In conclusion, the failure of mitotic checkpoint function can generate gross aneuploidy from which cells with an advantage for tumor growth may be selected.