Mitotic cell death is an important form of cell death, particularly in cancer. Chromosome fragmentation is a major form of mitotic cell death which is identifiable during common cytogenetic analysis by its unique phenotype of progressively degraded chromosomes. This morphology however, can appear similar to the morphology of premature chromosome condensation (PCC) and thus, PCC has been at times confused with chromosome fragmentation. In this analysis the phenomena of chromosome fragmentation and PCC are reviewed and their similarities and differences are discussed in order to facilitate differentiation of the similar morphologies. Furthermore, chromosome pulverization, which has been used almost synonymously with PCC, is re-examined. Interestingly, many past reports of chromosome pulverization are identified here as chromosome fragmentation and not PCC. These reports describe broad ranging mechanisms of pulverization induction and agree with recent evidence showing chromosome fragmentation is a cellular response to stress. Finally, biological aspects of chromosome fragmentation are discussed, including its application as one form of non-clonal chromosome aberration (NCCA), the driving force of cancer evolution.
Stevens et al.: Comparison of mitotic cell death by chromosome fragmentation to premature chromosome condensation. Molecular Cytogenetics 2010 3:20.