The review summarizes the authors’ and literature data on accumulation of DNA breaks in differentiating cells. Large 50-kb free DNA fragments were observed by several research teams in non-apoptotic insect, mammal, and plant cells. More intense DNA breakage was observed during maturation of spermatides, embryo development, and differentiation of myotubes, epidermal cells, lymphocytes, and neutrophils. In general, accumulation of DNA breaks in differentiating cells cannot be attributed to a decrease in the DNA repair efficiency. Poly(ADP)ribose synthesis often follows the DNA breakage in differentiating cells. We hypothesize that DNA fragmentation is an epigenetic tool for regulating the differentiation process. Scarce data on localization of the differentiation-associated DNA breaks indicate their preferable accumulation in specific DNA sequences including the nuclear matrix attachment sites. The same sites are degraded at early stages of apoptosis. Recent data on non-apoptotic function of caspases provide more evidence for possible existence of a DNA breakage mechanism in differentiating cells, resembling the initial stage of apoptosis. Excision of methylated cytosine and recombination are other possible explanations of the phenomenon. Elucidation of mechanisms of differentiation-induced DNA breaks appears to be a prospective research direction.
Russian Journal of Genetics – Springer Journals
Published: May 24, 2007
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