ESCRT III repairs nuclear envelope ruptures during cell migration to limit DNA damage and cell death

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Science  15 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6283, pp. 359-362
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad7611

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Repairing tears in the nuclear envelope

The nuclear envelope segregates genomic DNA from the cytoplasm and regulates protein trafficking between the cytosol and the nucleus. Maintaining nuclear envelope integrity during interphase is considered crucial. However, Raab et al. and Denais et al. show that migrating immune and cancer cells experience frequent and transitory nuclear envelope ruptures when they move through tight spaces (see the Perspective by Burke). The nuclear envelope reseals rapidly during interphase, assisted by components of the ESCRT III membrane-remodeling machinery.

Science, this issue pp. 359 and 353; see also p. 295


In eukaryotic cells, the nuclear envelope separates the genomic DNA from the cytoplasmic space and regulates protein trafficking between the two compartments. This barrier is only transiently dissolved during mitosis. Here, we found that it also opened at high frequency in migrating mammalian cells during interphase, which allowed nuclear proteins to leak out and cytoplasmic proteins to leak in. This transient opening was caused by nuclear deformation and was rapidly repaired in an ESCRT (endosomal sorting complexes required for transport)–dependent manner. DNA double-strand breaks coincided with nuclear envelope opening events. As a consequence, survival of cells migrating through confining environments depended on efficient nuclear envelope and DNA repair machineries. Nuclear envelope opening in migrating leukocytes could have potentially important consequences for normal and pathological immune responses.

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