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Keywords:

  • lymphoma;
  • irradiation;
  • giant cells;
  • mitotic survivors

Polyploid giant cells are produced as part of the response of p53 mutant Burkitt's lymphoma cell lines to high doses of irradiation. Polyploid giant cells arise by endo-reduplication in the first week after a single 10 Gray dose of irradiation. Within the giant cells a sub-nuclear structure is apparent and within this, sub-nuclear autonomy is evident, as displayed by independent nuclear structure and DNA replication in different parts of the nucleus. The majority of these cells soon die as apoptotic polykaryons. However, approximately 10–20% of giant cells remain viable into the second week after irradiation and begin vigorous extrusion of large degraded chromatin masses. During the second week, the giant cells begin to reconstruct their nuclei into polyploid ‘bouquets’, where chromosome double-loops are formed. Subsequently, the bouquets return to an interphase state and separate into several secondary nuclei. The individual sub-nuclei then resume DNA synthesis with mitotic divisions and sequester cytoplasmic territories around themselves, giving rise to the secondary cells, which continue mitotic propagation. This process of giant cell formation, reorganization and breakdown appears to provide an additional mechanism for repairing double-strand DNA breaks within tumour cells.